Conservation Now

February 23, 2009 07:06 AM

New Wetlands Book May Contain Profitable Ideas

Wetlands aren't just for ducks—they're for farmers, too. Restored and constructed wetlands are expected to play a major role in reducing the flow of nutrients into water supplies. Escaped nutrients flowing down the Mississippi River are thought to be a major contributor to the annual hypoxic zone in the Gulf of Mexico.

Creating or restoring a wetland can be profitable for farmers, as well as beneficial to the environment, says Karen Scanlon of the Conservation Technology Information Center (CTIC). "Wetlands are increasingly valuable because of fee hunting and other recreational income opportunities," she says.

"Because of their importance in the landscape, wetlands can be a magnet for funds from federal, state and private conservation organizations," Scanlon continues. "They can put profit into protecting, enhancing and managing these resources. Often, there's significant value in removing land from production that simply isn't practical to farm anyway."
A free downloadable 40-page book published by CTIC can help you decide if a wetland belongs on your farm. Learn how wetlands function; how they can add to efficiency or profitability; and seven sources of funding, including the Wetlands Reserve Program, the Environmental Quality Incentives Program and the Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program, offered in some areas.

To download the book, Wetlands: A Component of an Integrated Farming Operation, click on "CTIC Publications" at

New Cover Crop Web Site

Farmers in the central U.S. who are interested in cover crops can find a wealth of information at a new Web site sponsored by the Midwest Cover Crops Council (MCCC). MCCC is made up of representatives from land-grant universities, the Conservation Technology Information Center, federal and state agencies and others who believe cover crops can decrease soil erosion, increase nutrient recycling and reduce the amount of soil and nutrients entering water supplies.

Go Deeper with Poultry Litter Fertilizer

Poultry litter is an excellent source of fertilizer, but applying it to the soil surface means that nutrients, including nitrogen (N) and phosphorus (P), can be washed into water sources. A solution may be in a new subsurface band applicator developed by ag engineer Thomas R. Way and his colleagues at the USDA–Agricultural Research Service (ARS) National Soil Dynamics Laboratory in Auburn, Ala.

The tool bands litter in trenches 2" to 3" deep and covers it with soil, reducing the risk of runoff. In tests, it has reduced N and P runoff by 80% to 95% compared with conventional surface application. USDA–ARS researchers are using the tool in bermudagrass, corn and cotton.

It will be at least two years before the machine reaches farmers. USDA–ARS must patent the applicator and then find companies to manufacture and market the machine.

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