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ASSISTANCE and PROGRAMS for LANDOWNERS  

Our office offers conservation assistance and cost-share programs to owners and operators of farmland and rural lands.  Programs change from year to year, however, the basic assistance we provide to landowners and land managers hasn't changed much in the more than seventy years there has been a Soil and Water Conservation office in Medina County.

 Over the years this office has helped farm owners install many conservation practices including:

  •  grassed waterways

  •  tile drainage

  •  animal waste storage facilities

  •  farm ponds

  •  tree planting

  •  woodland management

  •  water control structures

  •  conservation tillage systems

  •   cover crops

 

Our best service begins with a farm visit.  Looking at a particular problem area, or maybe taking a broader look at the farm operation.  Just as our name implies, we work with people to conserve soil, water and other natural resources, with a focus on reducing soil erosion and protecting water quality.  While we typically work with active farm operations primarily, our programs are also available to landowners with an interest in conserving natural resources.

 The public's increasing interest in protecting the Environment, and specifically in water quality, has really affected the programs we offer and the kind of advice we give. 

We recommend practices such as: 

  •  cover crops

  •  filter strips

  •  Riparian forest buffers

  •  constructed or restored wetlands

  •  shallow water impoundments for wildlife

  •  native grass seedlings

  •  management intensive grazing

  •  manure composting facilities

  •  nutrient management plans 

 

The goal of all these practices is to keep soils and agricultural nutrients on the farm, maintain high quality soils to produce food, fiber and wildlife, and prevent pollution of our streams, lakes and groundwater.   

Cost-share programs help landowners install conservation practices. These programs include:

Cropland rental or easement programs provide some income on land which is put to a more permanent conservation use.  These programs include:

We encourage you to look at the broader picture, usually in the form of a Conservation Plan, for the entire farm or property. 

More information on these and other Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) Programs check out their website or contact Derrick Harmon, District Conservationist, USDA-NRCS by e-mail or phone at (330) 722-2628 ext. 110. 

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Agricultural Best Management Practices 

Agricultural Best Management Practices (BMPs) are proven conservation practices that when applied, minimize soil erosion, maintain soil productivity and protect water quality.  

CORE 4

Several key BMPs are important for our area.   

Conservation Tillage

Conservation tillage is defined as having at least 30 percent ground cover after planting and is also known as crop residue management.  These practices improve soil quality, water quality, air quality and on-farm productivity while reducing expenses.  No-till, one type of conservation tillage, can reduce erosion by 90 percent and conserve 2-4" of soil moisture for dryer periods.  In addition, surface residue causes organisms to remain active for longer periods contributing to soil humus formation.

Widely adopted throughout most of the United States, today's technologically advanced equipment and crop protection products make conservation tillage a practical option for most climates and soil types.  Growers save time, fuel, and equipment cost while maintaining and/or increasing yields and profits.  Over several years, fewer tillage trips improve soil quality through increased organic matter, earthworm and other biological activity. 

Conservation tillage also improves water quality by reducing the movement of soil and associated potential pollutants---like phosphorus and crop protection products---to surface water.  Excess phosphorus in fresh water often results in abundant algal growth.  It also increases microbial activity throughout whichspeeds the breakdown of crop protection products.

Crop Nutrient Management

Crop nutrient management is defined as increasing nutrient efficiency to maximize economic return while maintaining or improving the environment.  To increase nutrient efficiency, growers apply plant nutrients at the right time and place to achieve their estimate yield.  This approach helps reduce potential pollution of surface and ground water.  All sources of plant nutrients---manure, fertilizers, previous crops, irrigation tailwater, etc.---are included in the budget.  Specific management practices include soil testing, split applications, side dressing, nitrogen stabilizers, manure testing, application calibration, variable rate technologies and livestock/poultry feed rations.  The basic components of a crop nutrient budget and the resulting management plan are:

  • Field map

  • Soil test

  • Crop sequence

  • Estimated yield

  • Sources and forms

  • Sensitive areas

  • Recommended timing

  • Recommended rates

  • Recommended methods

  • Annual review and update

Weed and Pest Management (IPM)

Weed and pest management is a comprehensive approach to controlling these and other yield-robbing  pests.  It often involves the use of various management practices that either prevent or reduce economically harmful weed, insect, disease, and other pest populations.  In other situations, management practices are used to reduce 'populations' to an economically tolerable level.  In all situations, it helps maintain or improve a quality environment.

Specific practices include scouting fields, rotating crops, planting resistant crops, encouraging beneficial insects and, when necessary, utilizing crop protection products.  When crop protection products are used, application rates and methods are based on threshold populations, safety to non-target organisms, soil types, sensitivity and a variety of other site-specific factors.

Conservation Buffers

Conservation buffers are strategically planted grasses, trees, and other ground cover.  When planned and implemented to match the site, they reduce the impact of runoff from adjacent fields.  

Buffers can reduce up to 80% of sediment and 40% of phosphorous (on average) from reaching surface water by trapping it in the vegetation.  Significant amounts of nitrate can be removed from the system by the root structure and stored in the plant material.  Buffers also can reduce wind borne pollutants.

Several years of cost analysis show areas suitable for buffers are often the least profitable areas in the field.  In fact, the continuous buffer sign-up for the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) can turn unprofitable acres into a profitable situation.  Buffers can also:

  • Trap any escapes of crop protection products on the surface and in the root zone to allow natural decomposition processes to occur

  • Allow plants in the buffer zone to use potential pollutants as nutrients

  • Reduce wind and water erosion

  • Increase infiltration and reduce runoff

  • Increase fish and wildlife habitat

  • Trap snow to increase moisture available to crops

  • Add aesthetics to the landscape both visually and in terms of plant and animal populations

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Other BMPs

Other BMPs especially suited for Medina County include:

Manure Management / Storage

A structure that protects water bodies from manure runoff by storing manure until conditions are suitable for field application or proper removal.

Download NRCS-Ohio Manure Management Standards: 

or contact the SWCD Office at 330 722-9320 for further information.

 

 

Additional Sources of Information:

Manure as a Resource
OSU Extension Fact Sheets
Ohio Livestock Manure And Wastewater Management Guide
Horse Manure Management---Preventing a Soil Nitrogen Deficiency

 

Grassed Waterway

Shaping the ground and establishing grass in a natural drainageway to prevent or repair gullies.

Stream Protection

Protecting a stream by excluding livestock and by establishing buffer zones of vegetation to filter runoff.

Wetland Enhancement

Installing practices to manage water levels to improve habitat or restore wetlands.

Wildlife Habitat Management

Creating or improving food and cover for upland or wetland wildlife.

Planned Grazing System

Planting and designing grazing rotations to optimize production, reduce sediment and nutrient runoff.

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COMPOSTING

Composting is an aerobic (oxygen requiring) process in which microorganisms break down complex organic components of animal waste and bedding (e.g. straw, sawdust) into simple organic soil-like material. 

For relatively inexpensive composting:

  • Use a composting bin on a level impervious surface
  • Stack all materials to be composted in one bin until full
  • Allow heap to go through a composing cycle 

An ideal composting system may take eight to twelve weeks to complete, and then progresses to a curing period which typically lasts for another four weeks. 

Organic materials to be composted must have the appropriate carbon to nitrogen (C:N) ratio that supports growth and activity of the microorganisms that carry out composting.  

Typical compost piles from horse operations consist of manure and bedding materials and have a high C:N ratio.  This combination composts well by itself, especially if the bedding material is straw.  If bedding material is sawdust, it may take a longer time to compost.  The composting process can be improved if materials with higher nitrogen content, such as grass clippings or urea, are added as needed to the pile.  

Oxygen is needed by microorganisms during respiration while breaking down the materials.   Aerobic composting requires a lot of oxygen, particularly at the initial stage.  A tremendous amount of energy in the form of heat is given off, creating an ideal environment for the microorganisms.  They operate best in temperatures between 110F and 150F.  At 140 F or higher, pathogens, weed seeds, and fly larvae in the composting materials are destroyed.  However, at temperatures above 160 F, the microorganisms will die.  Therefore, it is essential to regulate the oxygen and temperature levels by regularly turning the compost pile, about three times a month. Monitor the temperature for best results.

Moisture is necessary to permit biological activities and the supporting chemicals process.  Moisture should be about 50 percent of the content.  Estimate the moisture content by squeezing a handful of composted material.  It should feel like a damp sponge after the water has been wrung out.  Moisture is continuously lost due to the high temperature.  Therefore, regularly wet the materials without waterlogging them.

Benefits of Composting: 

  • Reduces environmental and health risks (reduces parasite infestation, reduces potential breeding sites for flies, and reduces the amount of raw manure-polluted runoff reaching surface and groundwater)
  • Can reduce the volume of manure to manage, as well as odor problems
  • Provides a soil amendment that enhances soil tilth and fertility

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