A recent report by the U.S. Department of Agriculture shows that farmers in the lower Mississippi River basin have been reducing erosion and nutrient losses from farmland by the adoption of voluntary conservation measures.
The findings by the Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) demonstrate that efforts to control erosion and manage nutrients have led to significant reductions in edge-of-field losses. One of the measures recognized as a significant contributor to these reductions is the use of cover crops.
By controlling runoff of surface water, holding soil in place during the winter and absorbing nutrients that might otherwise leach into the water table, cover crops have the potential to have a significant impact on water quality.
Concerns about agricultural impacts on the environment have been a hot topic here in the Lake Champlain basin. Like any human activity, agriculture does indeed have effects on the environment; some good, some bad. With modern farms getting bigger, there are both concerns and opportunities to be addressed with respect to environmental impacts.
Over the next few decades, farmers will need to produce more food while at the same time reducing the impact of their farming practices. With the increased consumer interest in agricultural practices and how food is produced, farmers are trying new techniques.
Because of our proximity to Lake Champlain and the many farms along its shores, Cornell Cooperative Extension, in collaboration with the Lake Champlain Basin Program and the Clinton County Soil & Water District, held a series of on-farm meetings over the course of the growing season to highlight lake-friendly farming practices and best-management practices for the reduction of non-point-source pollution. With the cooperation of local farms and other agencies, we sought to raise awareness and increase acceptance of practices that will be of benefit to us all.