Field Conservation

Field conservation is a set of management practices required to maintain healthy crop fields. This helps to prevent soil erosion and disease while maintaining soil health. Practices such as tillage and planting the same crop repeatedly in the same area deteriorate crop fields, which is not only bad for the environment, but impacts yields as well. Another contributor to poor field management is soil erosion, which occurs because of water runoff and wind, but also through tillage. Field conservation is an ongoing process of observing the fields frequently, looking out for excessive pests or weeds as well as making sure field conservation methods have not been compromised.

There are many options when determining how to manage agricultural runoff and soil erosion, several of which are sustainable and can help increase yields. Methods such as crop rotation, cover crops, filter strips, and conservation tillage are all sustainable methods which can provide more than one benefit and can be implemented together. All the above methods can be used for organic crop fields as well.

Crop Rotation

Crop rotations is the process of continually changing the types of crops grown for each harvest on a given piece of land. By rotating the crops, the stress on the soil is reduced and a specific nutrient isn’t overharvested. Crop rotations help enrich soil with many nutrients as different crops provide the soil with a variety of nutrients. This is also beneficial as various crops don`t require the same nutrients, reducing the load on specific nutrients and keeping the soil rich. Not only does crop rotation help with soil health, it also supports the reduction of pests and weeds. Certain crops have allelopathic properties which inhibit growth of other species such as weeds.

Cover Crops

Cover crops are another method of enriching soil health and water conservation while also reducing soil erosion by wind. Incorporating the planting of cover crops into crop rotations is necessary to determine which cover crops to plant prior to cash crops. Cover crops can be cut, roll crimped, and left on the soil surface for water conservation or turned with the soil to produce green manure. Using different cover crops provide various benefits for soil health. Cover crops have been known to help increase yields, potentially leading to increased profits. This is a strategy that can be used for pest and weed control, reducing costs and the need for pesticides and herbicides.

Filter Strips

Filter strips are grown to follow bodies of water with gentle slopes to prevent agricultural runoff from contaminating surface and ground water. They provide support in reducing soil erosion by slowing water runoff, trapping nutrients and sediments within the strip. Filter strips can also reduce erosion by wind, as the roots of the strip help secure soil particles from being moved easily. They are low-cost and low-maintenance, and can reduce maintenance costs for drainage ditches.

Conservation Tillage

Conservation tillage limits the disturbance of soil to plant crops and reduce soil erosion. Conservation tillage methods such as reduced till, no till, strip till, mulch till, or ridge till are used to control crop residue as a cover for current cash crops, while reducing soil erosion and conserving water. It helps conserve water as the cover reduces evaporation of water content within the soil. Conventional till methods expose the soil to wind and water increasing the likelihood of erosion.