Surface Mulching

      Photo9 Mulching is a recognized management practice that saves soil and moisture, and is used in most gardens. Photographer: Jim Archambault. Photo Courtsey of USDA NRCS.
      Category:  Conservation Cover
      Practice Type:  Management
      Landuse/Agriculture Type:  Row Crop
      Climatic Zones:  Temperate, Semiarid
      Regions:  North America, South Asia, Europe
      Pollutants Treated:  Nitrogen, Phosphorus, Sediment

      Description: Surface mulching is a temporary soil stabilization practice in which materials like straw, grass hay, compost, wood chips or an additional source of carbon are applied or incorporated on the soil surface at the time of planting. Mulching helps keep soil in place and minimizes runoff. Other benefits of surface mulching include increased nutrient and water use efficiency, building carbon stock to the soil, and improving soil moisture. By maintaining soil moisture and controlling temperature, mulching also helps to improve biological and chemical nutrient transformation processes like sorption, desorption, fixation and diffusion of nutrients in soil.1

      Implementation Considerations: To achieve optimum advantage from the mulch the mulch should be applied immediately after germination of crop at 5 ton/ ha (organic mulch). Use of mulch at this quantity is found to be most effective in dry farming areas. In excess rainfall years mulch may not be as effective.

      Scalable to small farms? Yes

      1 V. Gangwar, V.K. Singh, and Ravi Shankar. Indian Journal of Fertilizers., (2013). Fertiliser Best Management Practices in important cropping systems. Volume 9 (4), pp. 34-51.


      Swine Manure Treatment

      Photo62 Using a deep sampling probe, Ariel Szogi inspects the amount of calcium phosphate produced in a phosphorus-separation module that is part of the new system. Photo by Peggy Greb. Photo courtesy of USDA ARS.
      Category:  Manure Management
      Practice Type:  Management
      Landuse/Agriculture Type:  Animal Confinement
      Climatic Zones:  Temperate, Tropical, Semiarid
      Regions:  North America, South Asia, Europe
      Pollutants Treated:  Phosphorus

      Description: Treating swine manure with aluminum chloride (alum) binds phosphorus so that it is not soluble to water, thereby reducing potential losses to surface water through runoff. Alum can either be added to manure in manure pits inside the production facility or outside of the production facility in settling ponds or lagoons. When applied inside, alum also helps to reduce ammonia emissions. When applied outside, it may enhance solid separation. Aluminum added to manure at a 1:1 ratio of aluminum to phosphorus can reduce soluble phosphorus in runoff to background levels.1

      Implementation Considerations: Treating swine manure with alum is appropriate for any liquid manure-handling system. The benefits of applying the alum inside or outside of the treatment site should be considered. Addition of alum directly in the manure spreader may decrease its capacity.

      Scalable to small farms? No

      Scaling Considerations: A better approach is dry bedding.

      1 Smith, Doug. "Treating Swine Manure with Aluminum Chloride." SERA-17, Minimizing Phosphorus Losses from Agriculture. Web. Jan. 2014. http://www.sera17.ext.vt.edu/Documents/BMP_swine_manure.pdf.


      Tailwater Recovery

      Photo47 A tailwater recovery stems traps and circulates water around fields, which conserves water while preventing runoff of sediments and nutrients into nearby natural waterways in Indianola, MS on Aug. 8, 2012. Photo courtesy of USDA NRCS.
      Category:  Irrigation Management
      Practice Type:  Structural
      Climatic Zones:  Temperate, Tropical, Semiarid
      Regions:  North America, South Asia, Europe
      Pollutants Treated:  Nitrogen, Phosphorus, Sediment

      Description: An irrigation tailwater recovery system normally includes a combination of practices and equipment that collect, convey, store and recycle irrigation runoff water for re-use. Collection and storage facilities are an integral part of this practice. Before the water is redistributed, the storage facilities allow adequate retention time for the chemicals in the water to break down. Tailwater recovery reduces runoff volume, improving off-site water quality.1

      Implementation Considerations: Land must be taken out of production for the pond and other system components of a tailwater recovery system.

      Scalable to small farms? No

      1 Carman, Dennis. "Tailwater Recovery." SERA-17, Minimizing Phosphorus Losses from Agriculture. Web. Jan. 2014. http://www.sera17.ext.vt.edu/Documents/BMP_tailwater.pdf.; Schwankl, Lawrence J., L. Prichard, and Blaine R. Hanson. "Tailwater Return Systems." Reducing Runoff From Irrigated Lands. University of California, Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources. Web. July 2014. http://www.nrcs.usda.gov/Internet/FSE_DOCUMENTS/nrcs143_026051.pdf .


      Terraces

      Photo31 Terrace farming in Chimi Lakhang, Bhutan. Photo Courtesy Anurag Tamhankar
      Category:  Erosion Control
      Practice Type:  Structural
      Landuse/Agriculture Type:  Row Crop, Rice
      Climatic Zones:  Temperate, Tropical
      Regions:  North America, Europe, South Asia
      Pollutants Treated:  Nitrogen, Phosphorus, Sediment

      Description: Terraces break long slopes into shorter ones, usually following the contour, creating a step-like landform. As water makes its way down a hill, terraces serve as small dams to intercept water and guide it to an outlet or pond it behind berms. There are four types of terraces - bench, channel, narrow, and broad based ridge - that reduce the length of slope on a hill side in order to reduce erosion and prevent gully formation and retain runoff. Bench terracing is done on relatively steep slopes and consists of excavating upper parts of the slope and filling the lower part with the soil materials from the upper parts. Channel terraces are wide, shallow channels that follow the land’s contour line. Narrow based terraces consist of a number of ridges spaced 1-2 meters apart across the slope; this type is especially found in high rainfall areas. Broad based ridge terraces are wide, low bunds following natural contour lines. Soil is excavated from both sides of the terrace; this type is especially found in low rainfall areas. 1

      Implementation Considerations: If the slopes are very irregular or if the soil is shallow (less than 6 inches), alternative practices should probably be used. In addition, terraces are generally designed to withstand up to 10-year storm events. Grass waterways are often used to collect water runoff from terrace edges.

      Scalable to small farms? Yes

      Scaling Considerations: See: http://www.fao.org/docrep/003/y1730e/y1730e03.htm

      1 "EU Database of Best Practices." Living Water Exchange: Promoting Replication of Good Practices for Nutrient Reduction and Joint Collaboration in Central and Eastern Europe. Web. Sept. 2013. http://nutrient2.iwlearn.org/nutrient-reduction-practices/eu-database-of-practices/view.; Wheaton, Rolland, and Edwin J. Monke. "Terracing as a "Best Management Practice" for Controlling Erosion and Protecting Water Quality." Agricultural Engineering Department. Purdue University, Cooperative Extension Service. Web. July 2014. https://www.extension.purdue.edu/extmedia/ae/ae-114.html.; Carman, Dennis. "Terraces." SERA-17, Minimizing Phosphorus Losses from Agriculture. Web. Jan. 2014. https://www.extension.purdue.edu/extmedia/ae/ae-114.html .


      Turf Aerators

      Photo99 The purchased aerator can travel quickly over a paddock. Attribute: © State of New South Wales through Department of Industry and Investment (Industry & Investment NSW) 2010
      Category:  Erosion Control
      Practice Type:  Management
      Landuse/Agriculture Type:  Row Crop
      Climatic Zones:  Arid, Semiarid
      Regions:  Australia
      Pollutants Treated:  Nitrogen, Phosphorus, Sediment

      Description: The use of a turf aerator once or twice per crop helps loosen soil to 10 cm. Regular aeration improves water infiltration, reduces nutrient runoff and speeds turf re-establishment after harvest.1

      Scalable to small farms? Yes

      Scaling Considerations: Requires purchasing a turf aerator.

      1 "Smart Farms: Charlie Saliba Case Study." New South Wales (NSW) Department of Primary Industries: Office of Water. Feb. 2011. Web. Oct. 2014. .