Trempealeau County Land ConservationThe Department of Land Management staff strives to improve and protect water quality, soil health, wildlife habitat, and biodiversity in Trempealeau County. By promoting and cost-sharing conservation practices with farmers and landowners, we hope to make Trempealeau County a model for conservation in Wisconsin. In order to achieve this lofty goal, we will need your help. By installing proper conservation practices on your land, you can play a major role in improving and protecting the bountiful natural resources that Trempealeau County has to offer. Listed below are some common conservation practices that can benefit your land, and the rest of the county.
Farmland Conservation PracticesVegetative Buffers
Vegetative Buffers are areas of permanent perennial grasses and forbs that protect neighboring sensitive areas from potential damage caused by runoff. It is very important to conduct routine maintenance on vegetative buffers. Mowing, cutting trees, prescribed burning, and inter-seeding are some good types of maintenance that will keep vegetative buffers resilient. Some examples of vegetative buffers are:
Riparian buffers- an area of vegetation between crop fields/pastures and streambanks to prevent erosion of the streambank. These buffers vary in size depending on the size of the stream, river, or lake. A good baseline setback to always shoot for is 50 feet from the edge of the water. It is good practice to leave this area out of production and keep grazing animals fenced out of it.
Woodland buffers- an area of vegetation between crop fields and woodland areas. The purpose of this practice is slow runoff entering the field from wooded areas. This will help alleviate erosion on the field.
Wetland buffers- an area of vegetation between crop fields and delineated wetland areas. This buffer will help filter out some of the sediment and nutrients that may flow off of the crop field.
There are a few different contour farming practices that will help reduce soil erosion and runoff. Alone, each of these will help with slowing runoff and reducing erosion, but utilized all together is when they are the most effective.
- Contour Tillage- tillage practices that follow the contour of a slope will slow runoff water velocity and therefore reduce erosion. Though this practice is not as effective unless other contour farming practices are utilized.
- Contour Planting- Planting crops on the contour of slopes instead of up and down a hill will help reduce erosion. This is more effective when utilized with contour tillage.
- Contour strip cropping- Contour strip cropping is planting staggered strips of row crops and forage crops. These strips are planted on the contour. This is one of the most effective forms of farming steeper sloped areas.
Grass waterways are arguably the most effective way to reduce gully erosion in concentrated flow channels in crop fields. Grass waterways are areas of perennial grasses that are located in concentrated runoff flow channels. These waterways should not be planted in any row crops. The waterways may be utilized for a forage crop once per year, but it is suggested that no more than one hay crop be harvested per year. Grass waterways are one of the most commonly cost-shared practices in Trempealeau County. Due to the topography in this region, grass waterways and all forms of contour farming should be utilized on the steep slope of this area to reduce runoff and erosion.
Cover crops are a more innovative way to reduce erosion on crop fields caused by spring snow and ice melt. Cover crops provide a vegetative cover during the winter months and into early spring. A commonly used cover crop in Trempealeau County is winter wheat. This can be planted after or during harvest. Winter wheat is unique because it will not die off over winter, it will keep a good root base throughout those months into spring. Cover crops also provide a source of nutrients to crops.
Rotational grazing is a grazing regime used by many farmers and ranchers fed up with low quality and eroded pastures. The idea of rotational grazing is that livestock need to be moved around. Typically paddocks are smaller in rotational grazing operations, and livestock is moved from paddock to paddock more frequently. The more frequent movement decreases trampling so the vegetation growth is not hindered.
Stream and Wildlife Habitat Conservation PracticesStreambank Rip Rap
Streambank rip rap is placing large rocks on the stream banks to help prevent erosion. Generally, the banks are reshaped to a gradual slope before the rock is added. A thin layer of topsoil may be top-dressed and planted with native streambank plants.
Restoring wetland areas can benefit a landowner by increasing flood water retention, increasing wildlife habitat, and providing recreational opportunities. There are countless environmental benefits of restoring wetlands.
Harvesting timber can be a great source of revenue from your property. Timber harvests can also benefit wildlife and game animals. It is best to discuss overall woodlot goals with the county forester, so they can set a harvest that will meet the landowner's expectations.
Though Trempealeau County may not be able to cost-share all of these projects, we can provide technical assistance and put landowners in contact with other professionals and agencies who can provide expert assistance.