Farming in NYs Lake Champlain Basin

It is estimated that 23% of the Lake's phosphorus load is being contributed by NY agricultural land use practices. Farm operators in the Lake Champlain Basin are working to reduce their potential for contributing to the Lake Champlain Phosphorus restricted diet. Many of the Lake's farming operations are participating in the voluntary program known as the Agricultural Environmental Management Program. Any farm in the Basin can contact their local Soil and Water Conservation District to learn how they can participate in the New York State Agricultural Environmental Management Program. This program allows the farm to inventory all resource concerns of the farm and to establish a conservation plan to implement any best management practices where practicable to reduce their potential to contribute non-point pollution factors. This program comes with incentives to assist in the implementation of eligible farming practices.

There are ongoing research projects being carried out by the USDA NRCS on private farms that enhance the science behind the recommendations of best management practices. Partners at Cornell Cooperative Extension are collecting yield data from farms to help gain accuracy of soil test recommendations.

When a farm follows a conservation plan, the farm is able to allocate nutrients to fields based on the results of a soil test that shows when, where and how much of a particular nutrient each field needs to produce a specified crop. Conservation plans create healthy soils that retain more water for the crop root uptake, and help the farm to be more efficient with fertilizer costs. Farmers are using best management practices that help reduce phosphorus concentrations in the Lake from becoming too high by:

  • Planting cover crops on bare pastures, harvested corn and horticultural fields
  • Using less tillage in fall when bare soil could erode more easily
  • Using soil testing to determine nutrient applications
  • Attending and hosting Farming in the Basin educational meetings
  • Utilizing rotational grazing for pastures and fencing livestock out of streams
  • Building manure storages to reduce the need to spread manure in winter months
  • Covering barnyards to limit clean water running through nutrient dense barnyard areas
  • Turning off manure and fertilizer spreaders when near the edges of surface water courses
  • Keeping manure and fertilizer spreading equipment calibrated
  • Keeping nutrient management records
  • Using GPS to ensure nutrients and chemicals are applied at the correct rate and place.
Lake Champlain Basin Farmers are dependent on healthy soil and water sources to maintain their livelihoods and their families, and are working to be a part of the solution for a healthy Lake.

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