Contour Buffer Strips, are they right for your farm?

No two farm croplands are the same in Wisconsin. This means that a management practice that works great for one farm may not necessarily be the right fit for your farm.

If your cropland is susceptible to sheet and rill erosion, contour buffer strips are a management practice that you may want to consider. Talk with your local land conservation agent to develop a management plan that works for your farm because you want to be certain that the acres planned for crops strips will meet your production goals.

What are contour buffer strips?

Contour buffer strips are strips of grass or permanent vegetation in a contoured field that help trap sediments or nutrients. Serving as a filter for runoff, buffer strips can also improve surface water quality and trap pesticides and other contaminants from entering water sources. And, if a farmer decides to keep the vegetation tall in the spring, the strips can also help slow down runoff.

The grass strips are about 15 feet wide and commonly make up 20-30 percent of the slope and can provide food and nesting cover for small birds and animals.

Once the buffer strips are put in, the maintenance is on an “as needed” basis. The farmer may need to control the weeds and brush, fertilize and re-established vegetation by moving the strips up or down throughout the years.

There are challenges to protect Wisconsin’s natural resources. A farmer must think about every pasture, pond, stream, wetland and woodland to see what conservation practices would work or their farm because not all practices work for the same landscapes. If you think contour buffer strips may be a management practice that will work for your farm give your local land conservation officer a call.

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