Van Buren Conservation District

Best Ag Management & Conservation Practices

The Van Buren Conservation District (VBCD) is currently working on a number of federal and state-funded grants. The main goals of these grants are to reduce sediment and nutrient loss from farms and improve soil quality and over all productivity of the farm while protecting water quality. Currently, these grants are collecting data on the field-based practices that are being promoted. This data will help the VBCD be able to make decisions on which practices should be promoted in the future.

The VBCD works one-on-one with local farmers and hosts an annual “Farming for the Future” conference, field days, and many other educational opportunities. These programs are held to help growers interested in adopting conservation on the farm and to showcase best management practices around the county. Look at our Events for upcoming dates.

Practices projects are currently funding

  • No-Till
  • Cover Crops
  • Water Control Structures
  • Buffer Strips

By the numbers – 2021 Conservation Practice Deliverables

  • 1,007 tons of sediment runoff reduced
  • 3,000 acres of fly-on cover crops planted
  • 345 acres of non-fly-on cover crops planted
  • 1,875 acres of no-till/reduced tillage crops planted

Frequently Asked Questions

Why are we working with farmers in the South Branch of the Paw Paw River?

The South Branch Watershed includes the Eagle Lake Drain and Gates Extension Drain which are impaired by sediment and nutrients from bank erosion and agricultural runoff. Over 64% of the land that drains to the South Branch is used for agriculture, so working with farmers was critical.

How do changes in farm practices help improve water quality?

When farmers reduce tillage and plant cover crops (grasses planted after crops are removed) and buffer strips (vegetation areas planted along rivers), it helps keep sediment and nutrients on the farm and out of the water. These practices build soil structure to help improve water retention and nutrient recycling, so are good for both the farmer and our lakes & rivers.

What type of farmer participated in the project?

The majority of the South Branch’s agricultural land is used for growing corn and soybeans, along with other crops like vegetables, grapes, and hay. Corn and soybean growers were targeted for this project, both because they are the most prevalent, and those crops offer unique opportunities for reduced tillage and cover crop use.

How do farmers learn more about these practices?

The VBCD offers conferences and field days for farmers to learn more about these practices through demonstrations and expert speakers. VBCD technicians offer support through management plans, resources for seed, equipment and technologies, as well as offering cost share to help farmers offset costs of changing practices.

Practice Descriptions

Cover Crops – Grasses, legumes, or forbs established for seasonal cover and conservation purposes (reduces erosion from wind and water, increases soil tilth, manages excessive nutrients, conserves soil moisture, and increases biodiversity).

No-Till – Starting in the fall, leave most of the crop residue on the soil surface at all times (50% minimum cover after planting) and planting the next crop into the residue to protect the land from excessive sheet and rill erosion.

Reduced-Till (Mulch-Till) – Starting in the fall, leave some of the crop residue on the surface at all times (30-50% minimum cover after planting). Residue adequately controls erosion by both wind and water.

Grass Filter Strips – A vegetative grass strip that is seeded with appropriate seeding mixtures to filter sediment, nutrients, pathogens, and pesticides to help stabilize concentrated flow to reduce gully erosion.