Cover crops include a variety of species planted into or after a cash crop for various reasons. They control erosion caused by water and wind by creating an organic mulch layer that holds soil in place. Fields with cover crops also experience improved aeration and water infiltration because roots break up compaction and improve the soil organic matter content. Cover crops also recycle nutrients that would be lost through leaching or erosion, such as nitrogen, phosphorus, and other micro-nutrients, thus reducing the need for chemical fertilizers.
Conservation tillage, also known as residue management, includes any tillage and planting system that leaves 30 percent or more of the soil surface covered with crop residue after planting to reduce soil erosion by water. Residue management is accomplished through several tillage systems, including no-till, ridge-till, mulch-till, reduced tillage, and vertical tillage. Conservation tillage systems offer numerous benefits that conventional tillage systems to not. They reduce labor, save time and fuel and reduce machinery wear. They improve soil tilth (physical ability to support plant growth), increase organic matter (good as a nutrient source and improves soil moisture holding capacity), and reduce evaporation to improve water availability. Most important, they reduce soil erosion. Depending on the amount present, crop residue can reduce soil erosion by up to 90% compared to an unprotected, conventionally tilled field.
Water and sediment control basins (WASCOBs) consist of an earthen embankment or a ridge and channel constructed across concentrated flow paths to form a sediment trap and water detention basin. They help reduce gully erosion, remove sediment from runoff water, and reduce downstream flooding. You should use WASCOBs in combination with other practices designed to prevent soil erosion, like cover crops or conservation tillage. WASCOBs require engineered designs before implementation.
Gypsum is a source of the essential plant nutrients sulfur and calcium and has significant benefits to water quality while improving soil health. It improves the structure of soils through a process that re-aligns soil particles. These re-aligned soil particles lead to better water infiltration and less erosion. Gypsum can also bind soluble phosphorus to soil particles keeping it in field and available to growing plants. Agriculture has used gypsum for many years as a calcium source because it does not alter soil pH. Sulfur in gypsum also aids plants in photosynthesis and the uptake of nitrogen. The ability of gypsum to improve water quality and provide needed plant nutrients makes it a win win for the farmer and Lake Macatawa.
The MACC currently does not have a dedicated staff person to provide technical assistance to farmers, however, you may contact the Environmental Program Manager for more information: firstname.lastname@example.org or 395-2688. The MACC may also have financial assistance available through grants. Check the Current Programs page for more information.
Technical assistance, and possibly financial, is also available from the following organizations:
Ottawa Conservation District
16731 Ferris St
Grand Haven MI 49417
Allegan Conservation District
1668 Lincoln Rd
Allegan MI 49010
Ottawa County MSU Extension
12220 Fillmore St, Suite 122
West Olive MI 49460
Allegan County MSU Extension
3255 122nd Ave, Suite 103
Allegan MI 49010
Natural Resources Conservation Service
Grand Haven Service Center (housed with Conservation District): 616-842-5852 x3
Allegan Service Center (housed with Conservation District): 269-673-6740 x3