Agricultural Best Management Practices (BMPs) are actions that agricultural producers can adopt to conserve water and reduce the spread of pollution on their lands and bodies of water.
Below you can find information (from Watershed Academy Web) on several Agricultural BMPs that can improve both agriculture and aquatic life sustainability.
You can also access CORE 4 via Watershed Academy Web- an online training developed for the Natural Resources Conservation Service specific to water quality protection.
Animal Feeding Operations Management - Certain management activities can reduce the availability and delivery of pollutants to bodies of water. Actions such as scraping manure from pavement areas or proper storage of feeds and bedding can significantly reduce the availability of pollutants for transport. Structures such as detention basins can affect pollutant transport by regulating runoff movement and increasing settling within the facility. Vegetated filter strips, riparian buffers, or other vegetated areas located around animal facilities can reduce delivery of pollutants to surface waters by infiltrating, settling, trapping, or transforming nutrients, sediment, and pathogens in runoff leaving the facility.
Erosion and Sediment Control - Management measures can be implemented by using one of two general strategies, or a combination of both. The first, and most desirable, strategy is to implement practices on the field to minimize soil detachment, erosion, and transport of sediment from the field. Effective practices include those that maintain crop residue or vegetative cover; improve soil properties; reduce slope length, steepness, or unsheltered distance; and reduce effective water and/or wind velocities. The second strategy is to route field runoff through practices that filter, trap, or settle soil particles. Examples of effective management strategies include vegetated filter strips, field borders, sediment retention ponds, and terraces.
Conservation Tillage - Conservation Tillage includes practices that limit tilling requirements while maintaining a crop residue on the soil surface ( no-till, mulch-till, ridge-till). These efforts minimize the splash effect of rainfall, reduce the potential for surface runoff, and increase infiltration.
Crop Nutrient Management - If nutrients are present in the soil in greater quantities than they are needed or at times when they cannot be used by crops or soil microbes, they may be lost to the environment through runoff, erosion, leaching, or volatilization. The objective of nutrient management is to supply adequate chemical elements to the soil and plants without creating an imbalance in the ecosystem. Nutrient sources, such as the application of fertilizer, irrigation water, and organic materials, are the easiest to control. Monitoring nutrients in the environment through soil, water, air, plant, and animal testing is the most direct way of knowing what levels exist. Adjusting the inputs based on the current levels of nutrients available and amount required for crop production is the best way to maintain crop production and avoid excess accumulations.
Conservation Buffers - Conservation buffers are areas or strips of land maintained in permanent vegetation to help control pollutants and manage other environmental problems. Conservation buffers include 1.) alley cropping, 2.) contour buffer strips, 3.) cross wind trap strips, 4.) field boarders, 5.) filter strips, 6.) grassed waterways with filters, 7.) riparian forest buffers, 8.) vegetative buffers, 9.) windbreaks/shelter beds. and 10.) herbaceous wind barriers.
Grazing Management - Managing livestock grazing to lessen the water quality impacts (e.g. reduce erosion potential). Key management parameters include 1.) grazing frequency, 2.) livestock stocking rates, 3.) livestock distribution, 4.) timing and distribution of each rest and grazing period, 5.) livestock type and class, and 6.) forage use allocation for livestock and wildlife.
Irrigation Management - A primary concern for irrigation water management is the discharge of salts, pesticides, and nutrients to ground water and discharge of these pollutants plus sediment to surface water. Increasing irrigation efficiency can reduce non-point source pollution of ground and surface waters. Increased efficiency.
Pest Management - Ground and surface water quality impairment due to non-point source pesticide contamination is a major concern in many agricultural areas. To adequately address these environmental risks, conservation planning must include a pest management component that minimizes negative impacts to all identified resource concerns. The goals of pest management include 1.) striving for maximum use of naturally occurring control forces (weather, pest diseases, predators, and parasites) in the pest's environment, 2.) focusing first on non-chemical measures to help problems from developing, and 3.) using chemical pesticides only if close inspection shows threy are needed.