Protect the Edge
Whether its grasses, native wildflowers, or trees, buffer strips will help shield streams, ponds, and lakes from receiving excess nutrients. Buffer strips absorb some surface runoff and act as a natural filter of fertilizers, chemicals, and sediment before they enter into the waterway.
Farmers are always looking for ways to leave their land in better shape each year. It makes economic sense to keep nutrients and soil where they belong – on the farm and not in streams and ditches. Surface runoff from an unbuffered field can degrade aquatic habitats and threaten public health, recreation, and drinking water supplies. Buffers are a proven conservation practice and are beneficial for many reasons:
- Buffers help filter surface runoff. Manure and fertilizers are as good at growing algae blooms in streams as they are at growing corn. Excessive growth can lead to harmful algal blooms which are unsafe for people, farm animals, pets, and wildlife.
- Plant roots help stabilize stream banks and ditch banks. Unstable banks are susceptible to slumping and undercutting which can lead to a loss of farmland.
- Buffers intercept sediment and prevent its accumulation in the water. Sediment build up can affect the freeboard of farm tiles that outlet into streams and ditches. Sediment also smothers aquatic organisms that live along the stream bottom and make it difficult for fish to find food.
- Buffers absorb rainwater and snowmelt, recharging groundwater supplies and allowing runoff to be released more slowly. This may reduce the intensity and frequency of flooding of valuable cropland, protecting valuable topsoil and preventing deposition of debris.
- Flourishing native vegetation in the buffer makes excellent habitat for predatory insects and insect-eating birds. The buffer provides a smorgasbord for essential pollinators.
- Buffers improve fish and wildlife habitat for hunters and anglers.
- Buffers can boost the farm’s bottom line by growing hay, lumber, fruit trees, and bees for honey, just to name a few nontraditional crops.
- Buffers may decrease property taxes. Farmers who have land in Current Agricultural Use Valuation and have a conservation buffer necessary to abate soil erosion in the management of the farm, may be eligible for a lower valuation. Please check with your county auditor for details.
According to the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, properly installed and maintained buffers have the capacity to remove up to an astounding 50 percent or more of nutrients and pesticides, up to 60 percent or more of certain pathogens, and 75 percent or more of sediment!
You can be the change for clean water. Consider conservation buffers along your streams and ditches.