Multistate study measures effectiveness of conservation practices

A six-year multi-state study is measuring the differences between soil management practices.

Dennis Busch with the University of Wisconsin-Platteville tells Brownfield they are evaluating how a suite of conservation practices in a soil health management system influence soil health, water quality, greenhouse gas emissions, and farm productivity. “We measure the total volume of runoff and we collect samples that are analyzed, and we look at what the concentration of soil is in the runoff and nutrients, primarily concerned with nitrogen loss and phosphorus loss.”

Busch says his Platteville team is only a couple of years into the study, but they’re already seeing some differences between the two systems.  “In the preliminary data, it looks like we’re seeing higher infiltration rates in the no-till plots in the advanced soil health management system, so in the conventional, we’re seeing higher amounts of water running off and, I think, we’re seeing erosion rates are going to be higher as well as nutrient loading.”

Busch says the study looks at cover crops, no till corn planting, and manure-based dry fertilizer products against traditional no cover crop and manure injection with a couple of tillage passes before planting corn to see how practices affect surface water quality, and nutrient runoff.

Last spring, it was so dry there were no runoff events, but Busch says this spring was more normal with more rain, giving them more to measure.

The Dairy Research Institute and the Soil Health Institute organized the six-year multi-state study.  Funding is coming from the Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research, Dairy Management, Incorporated, Nestle, Newtrient, and Starbucks. 

Other participants in the study include the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Cornell, The University of Vermont, The University of California-Davis, University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources, Texas A & M, and USDA’s Agricultural Research Service staff in Idaho.

Audio: Dennis Busch discusses the multi-state Dairy Soil & Water Regeneration project with Brownfield’s Larry Lee

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