What spring means for conservation

Spring is a busy season in the Soil and Water Conservation Office. After being stuck in the office all winter, the staff is ready to get back out into the field. Spring also brings its share of conservation concerns, including erosion and increased runoff. Soil erosion is often most evident and severe in the spring months, when snowmelt and early rains wash away soil from fields that are still bare soil. In towns and cities, spring melt water and storm water runoff from impervious surfaces is especially dirty, picking up everything from salt and sand to garbage off the streets. This runoff water usually enters directly into a lake or stream untreated.

The SWCD is always working to decrease the erosion and runoff issues of springtime.  Some things that farmers can do to reduce erosion in their fields include planting cover crops or practicing conservation tillage. A cover crop is planted after the main crop with the purpose of keeping the soil in place with vegetative cover and plant roots. Conservation tillage is a method of soil tillage that leaves “trash” (ie, plant litter from the crop) on the soil. It helps reduce erosion in the field. The SWCD and our partners, the Natural Resource Conservation Service, can help farmers implement these practices on their fields.

In residential and urban areas, there are many things that can be done to reduce runoff and to make the runoff water cleaner when it enters a lake or stream.  As simple as it sounds, sweeping the driveway, sidewalk, and street in front of you house can make a difference.  This removes the winter leftovers so that they aren’t carried with the runoff water.  The SWCD can also help residents install rain gardens, which are gardens designed to capture water from impervious areas, such as the street, and allow the water to soak into the ground. The water will enter groundwater, where it will eventually recharge lakes and rivers in the area, but it is cleansed as it filters through the soil.

If you are interested in conservation tillage, cover crops, rain gardens, or other possible ways to reduce soil erosion and runoff, contact the SWCD or NRCS at 651-674-2333 or visit the SWCD’s website at www.chisagoswcd.org.

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