Conservation Practices that Save
Farmers and ranchers can cut input costs, maintain production, protect soil and water resources, reduce the nation’s dependence on fossil fuels, and save money by using the conservation practices described in the articles below.
Energy Conservation in Confined Animal Operations
Simple changes in confined animal operations can help farmers and ranchers achieve significant cost and energy savings.
Prescribed Grazing Systems
For producers who manage cattle operations, prescribed grazing systems offer an effective way to reduce energy use, decrease costs, and improve animal health and productivity. Well-managed grazing systems improve the health and vigor of plants, enhance the quality and quantity of water, and reduce accelerated soil erosion and improve soil condition on the land.
Windbreaks or shelterbelts are barriers used to reduce wind speed and usually consist of trees, shrubs, or a combination. For the greatest protection, the windbreak needs to be oriented perpendicular to the troublesome winds. The reduction in wind speed behind a windbreak modifies the environmental conditions in this sheltered zone.
Integrated Pest Management
By incorporating integrated pest management (IPM) techniques into their operations, agricultural producers can reduce energy use and environmental risk while maintaining the quality of their agricultural products.
American producers can save significant quantities of energy by implementing precision agriculture practices on their land. For example, if guidance systems were used on 10 percent of the planted acres in the U.S., fuel use would be cut by 16 million gallons, herbicide use by 2 million quarts, and insecticide use by 4 million pounds per year. Less fuel, natural gas, herbicide, and insecticide used on the farm results in financial savings for the producer.
Irrigation Water Management
Irrigation water management encourages the application of water in an amount that meets the need of the growing plant in a manner that avoids extended soil saturation and runoff. By increasing application precision and reducing unneeded applications, water can be conserved and energy can be saved.
Nutrient management is a conservation practice that involves proper timing and placement of the right amounts of nutrients and soil amendments for adequate soil fertility and to minimize potential environmental degradation, particularly of water quality.
Crop Residue Management
No-till is a conservation practice that leaves the crop residue undisturbed from harvest through planting except for narrow strips that cause minimal soil disturbance. Crop residues are materials left in an agricultural field after the crop has been harvested. These residues include stalks and stubble (stems), leaves and seed pods. Good management of field residues can increase efficiency of irrigation and control of erosion. No-till can be used for almost any crop in almost any soil and can save producers labor costs and fuel. It’s a sound investment for the environment and the farm.