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County conservation agent starts harvestable buffer program

A county land conservation agent in Wisconsin has started a program where farmers can grow grass buffer zones that can be harvested anytime without penalty.

Shane Wucherpfennig from Wood County tells Brownfield marginal pieces of cropland along tree lines, in odd corners, and other places that often don’t bring ideal yields for row crops can improve the farm’s bottom line by planting perenial grasses and, “Putting those areas into more of a grassland/hay type of rotation, bringing your input costs down, bringing your profit margin up, and then seeing some of the water quality and soil health benefits of doing that type of a practice.”

Wucherpfennig says the reduced inputs and ability to harvest the buffers makes the whole field more profitable, and the harvestable buffers with their deep-penetrating roots help with nutrient cycling, soil health, and water quality while limiting water runoff. “That’s going to grow the root systems, create infiltration, slow down runoff, retain sediment, retain nutrients, and benefit the whole system.”

Wucherpfennig says the USDA Conservation Reserve Program doesn’t usually allow harvesting the grasses for hay.

He says another bonus is animals including deer prefer the grasses and flowers to row crops, so the buffers also reduce wildlife crop damage.

Wucherpfennig is trying to get State of Wisconsin innovation grant funding to help farmers get started. 

Wucherpfennig spoke to Brownfield during the Central Wisconsin Farm Profitability Expo Wednesday in Wisconsin Rapids.

AUDIO:  Shane Wucherpfennig explains how harvestable buffers can help a farm’s bottom line with Brownfield’s Larry Lee

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