Best Management Practices

Best management practices (BMPs) are a reasonable and low-cost method of maintaining productivity while conserving soil and water during farming activities. The objective of best management practices is to protect water quality and encourage soil conservation. Water pollution occurs when pollutants are released into and contaminate a body of water, which can occur accidentally or intentionally. Soil erosion occurs naturally by wind and water, but tillage can also play a role in soil erosion.

BMPs can be built into the farming strategy used as preventative measures. Some examples consist of identifying surface water or potential soil erosion locations prior to starting any farming activities. Other BMPs can be physically built into the land such as filter strips, runoff diversions, or silt fences. These preventative measures are set in place to avoid costly clean-ups and eroded soil.

Best Management Practices for Water

To maintain water quality, setting up filter strips helps prevent polluted water from entering clean bodies of water around farmland. Technologies like metering help determine optimal water quantities, in turn reducing water usage and costs for water and pumping. Irrigation scheduling is another practice that helps reduce over or under-watering of crops, also leading to reduced costs. This practice, alongside metering, can lower costs while providing better yields. It is important to adjust irrigation schedules for different crops based on their watering requirements.

Using effective irrigation methods can help increase water efficiency as well. Sprinkler and drip irrigation systems are costly to install but provide long-term benefits. Low-energy precision application (LEPA) sprinkler and drip irrigation systems are more efficient than traditional irrigation methods as they attempt to water the crops at the source, minimizing water consumption.

Best Management Practices for Soil

To reduce the impacts of soil erosion, planting cover crops can enhance soil quality while improving yields. Other benefits of cover crops include weed suppression, improving soil nitrogen content, and supporting the control of disease and pests. Crop rotation is another practice that enriches soil with a variety of nutrients. Maintaining healthy riparian areas (riverbanks) has a similar effect to filter strips, which work as a filter to reduce soil erosion caused by agricultural runoff and wind.

Using some or many of these best management practices together can help reduce costs while improving crop yields, soil quality, and water quality.