On the Farm Conservation Ideas

Farmers, landowners and others have been installing Best Management Practices (BMPs) and setting aside land in conservation easements for many years.  It is visible across the basin  in the increased amount of residue left on croplands, the 100,000 plus acres enrolled in the Conservation Reserve Easement Program (CREP), and thousands of smaller BMPs like water sediment basins, filter strips and feedlot gutter systems.  We have highlighted some of the practices being used in rural areas.

Here are 10 of the many ways you can make a difference on the farm to improve water quality in the Minnesota River Basin.  Each of us shares a responsibility to treat the natural environment including our rivers, lakes and wetlands with respect.  We want to make sure future generations can enjoy what we have been privileged with. Learn more about the diverse array of conservation projects across the basin in the Minnesota River Basin Progress Report.

Restore a Wetland
Wetlands filter sediment and nutrients, reduce flooding and help improve wildlife habitat among other benefits.  Downstream impacts can be reduced significantly by holding water on the landscape for a longer duration.

Plant native trees, grass, flowers or forbs
Filter strip, riparian buffers, grass waterways, and critical plantings are used by farmers to reduce erosion, protect shoreline and prevent excessive nutrients from flowing into rivers and lakes.

Upgrade your septic system
Reduce fecal coliform bacteria and phosphorus from reaching water bodies by installing a new septic system and having it inspected on a regular basis.  Many counties offer a low interest loan to help offset the cost.

Install a Woodchip Biofilter or Conservation Drainage System
Woodchip biofilters and conservation drainage systems are being installed to reduce the amount of water and excessive nitrates flowing off a cropfield into a water body.

Incorporate a Third Crop
Farmers from all over the Minnesota River Basin are seeing the value in producing a third crop to help diversify their operation.  Third crops can include vineyards, hazelnuts, tree plantations and much more.

Put in a Conservation Easement
There are a number of state and federal programs available to take critically sensitive land out of crop production including Reinvest in Minnesota (RIM) through the Board of Water and Soil Resources and the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) from the Farm Service Agency.

Serve on a local government board
Be part of the effort to improve water quality by serving on a local board that makes decisions affecting the landscape including the county commission, Soil and Water Conservation Board and Planning and Zoning Board.

Adopt a River
The Minnesota DNR supports this program where an individual, group or organization can adopt a stretch of a river, lake or other water body to remove litter and other debris.

Become a Citizen Monitor
The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency and many local organizations sponsor citizen monitoring programs for both rivers and lakes.  Water quality data collected by volunteers is used to help establish baseline conditions, decide if a water body should be listed as impaired and if conservation practices are effective.

Assist with a Youth Project
Help out a 4-H group, Boy Scout Troop, school class or other youth-related organization with a water quality project including picking up trash, monitoring a water body or planting a rain garden. 

Send us ideas for other Rural Conservation Practices to share with others in the Minnesota River Basin and beyond. Email: mrbdc@mnsu.edu