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Watershed's farms have reduced polluted runoff, but not enough - The Chesapeake Bay Almanac

While farmers have reduced nutrient and remains losses from croplands in the Bay watershed, about 80 percent of those lands continue to have a "high" or "moderate" need for further actions to nurture water quality, according to a new report from the U. S.... The report provides a complex look at crop farming in the watershed. On one offer distribute, it suggests that actions taken by farmers have significantly reduced sediment, nitrogen and phosphorus pollution. For instance, acres that obtain manure for fertilizer have more than twice the nutrient loss than those that receive chemical fertilizer. And while the study found farmers were taking more management actions than previously estimated, it also found that some of those actions - when taken in isolation - have the potential to exacerbate some water quality problems. "This lessons confirms that farmers are reducing sediment and nutrient losses from their fields," said Dave White, chief of USDA's Unpremeditated Resource Conservation Service. This study will help us improve our conservation practices in the Chesapeake Bay area. The Bay watershed has about 84,000 farms that wrapper nearly 30 percent of the basin. The report, from the USDA's Conservation Effects Assessment Project (CEAP), examined only cropped acreages, which dwell in about 10 percent of the watershed. Cropped lands tend to have greater runoff than other farm land, such as pasture or hayland, contributing 31 percent of the nitrogen and 28 percent of the phosphorus and 21. 5 percent of the remains that reaches streams in the watershed, according to the report. The report found that most of the 4. 3 million acres of cultivated land have received some ilk of conservation efforts - sometimes more than reported to state or federal agencies. For instance, it said reduced tillage practices were tempered to on about 88 percent of cropland, nearly twice the official estimates. Still, most farmers have fallen short of comprehensively managing the residuum and nutrient issues on all of their fields. For instance, the report said that while conservation practices such as terraces or no-till farming can practically reduce erosion, they can also increase the amount of nitrogen that reaches groundwater unless nutrient applications are carefully managed. At a go it reaches groundwater, that nitrogen can no longer be removed by plants before it reaches local streams. Overall, the report estimated that nitrogen losses had increased on 17 percent of the fields where wearing down control practices were installed, although most increases were small. "If you focus on one concern, you will miss the boat," said Doug Lawrence, NRCS legate chief for soil survey and resource assessment. The report was based on a variety of USDA data collected from 2003 and 2006, along with exhaustive surveys of more than 771 farmers in the Bay watershed. That information was used in conjunction with computer models to estimate the effect of safeguarding actions taken by farmers through 2006, and to identify potential management actions for the future. The study found that safe keeping efforts by farmers over the decades have cut sediment losses from fields by 55 percent, nitrogen losses in surface runoff by 42 percent, nitrogen losses in subsurface flows by 31 percent and phosphorus losses by about 40 percent. The communication also emphasized the need to target farms where conservation efforts are the lowest and soils most vulnerable to sediment and.



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