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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Title: Improving Water and Soil Quality with Conservation

Authors
item Lowrance, Robert
item Dabney, Seth
item Schultz, Richard - IOWA STATE UNIV.

Submitted to: Journal of Soil and Water Conservation Society
Publication Type: Review Article
Publication Acceptance Date: August 10, 2002
Publication Date: October 15, 2002
Citation: Lowrance, R.R., Dabney, S.M., Schultz, R. 2002. Improving water and soil quality with conservation. Journal of Soil and Water Conservation Society 57:36A-41A.

Interpretive Summary: Conservation buffers are living filters that increase the effectiveness of USDA programs to protect soil and water quality. In a time when clean water and healthy soil are as important as ever, conservation buffer technologies are new approaches that need wider application. In-field buffer practices work best when used in combination with other buffer types and other conservation practices. Vegetative barriers may be used in combination with edge-of-field buffers to protect and improve their function and longevity by dispersing runoff and encouraging sediment deposition upslope of the buffer. It's important to understand how buffers can be managed to help reduce nutrient transport potential for high loading of nutrients from manure land application sites. A restored riparian wetland buffer retained or removed most of the N and P that entered from an adjacent manure land application site. Bear Creek, Iowa is the site of riparian forest buffer and filter strip creations- constructed wetlands to capture tile flow- stream-bank bioengineering; in-stream structures; and controlled livestock grazing. Future research will evaluate the effects of buffers at the field, farm, and watershed scale to quantify the effects of incentive based programs and to determine whether agriculture is being successful in meeting water quality goals. The field, farm, and watershed scale research needed to define how to make these practices work in concert with one another has just begun.

Technical Abstract: Conservation buffer technologies are new approaches that need wider application. In-field buffer practices work best when used in combination with other buffer types and other conservation practices. Vegetative barriers may be used in combination with edge-of-field buffers to protect and improve their function and longevity by dispersing runoff and encouraging sediment deposition upslope of the buffer. It's important to understand how buffers can be managed to help ]reduce nutrient transport potential for high loading of nutrients from manure land application sites, A restored riparian wetland buffer retained or removed at least 59 percent of the nitrogen and 66 percent of the phosphorus that entered from an adjacent manure land application site. The Bear Creek National Restoration Demonstration Watershed project in Iowa has been the site of riparian forest buffers and filter strips creation; constructed wetlands to capture tile flow- stream-bank bioengineering; in-strearn structures; and controlling livestock grazing. We need field studies that test various widths of buffers of different plant community compositions for their efficacy in trapping surface runoff, reducing nonpoint source pollutants in subsurface waters, and enhancing the aquatic ecosystem. Research is needed to evaluate the impact of different riparian grazing strategies on channel morphology, water quality, and the fate of livestock-associated pathogens and antibiotics. Integrating riparian buffers and other conservation buffers into these models is a key objective in future model development.

Last Modified: 9/3/2014
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