Did you know that farmers care about clean water? Farmers are implementing practices on their land to improve our water quality, which we all depend on. Those practices include the planting of riparian buffers, grass waterways, cover crops, reduced tillage and the application of nutrients with precision technology just to name a few.
Buffer strips or grass waterways along the edge of fields and through low spots are crucial to the removal of nitrates from running water after excess rain fall.
Reduced tillage and cover crops also reduce the amount of nutrient runoff and soil erosion from fields.
More and more famers are now precisely applying their nutrients to the soil, allowing them to put exactly what they need where they need according to soil sampling, soil type, yield maps and other on-farm data. These practices allow farmers to save money and prevent them form over-applying.
Beyond that, farmers are also researching and participating in different water quality projects like saturated buffers, two-stage ditch design, proper nutrient management and organized watershed districts.
Farmers, university extension services and commodity organizations are also investing research to improve water quality. An exciting project going on in South Dakota is the work being done on denitrifying bioreactors. These bioreactors are basically giant filters made of wood chips which are buried underground at the end of a tile line. Past research shows that these filters can capture as much as 50-70% of the nitrates carried in the water.
The research on farm drainage is expanding rapidly in South Dakota as farmers and professors work together to help establish best management practices when it comes to land and water stewardship in the state and region.
Why do farmers invest in these things? Because they have a moral obligation to care for the land and water, which enable them to meet the growing demand for food, feed, fuel and fiber year after year, things that life depends on.