Riparian areas around a farm field can pose a challenge for farming businesses. These areas are sensitive to normal farming operations. Not only do farmers have to be alert to the environmental consequences of altering or harming this area they also have to be aware of legal ramifications if any harm comes to the water and/or living organisms in the water. Special precautions need to be taken around these areas to prevent any adverse effect. A map of these areas should be provided to all farm employees who work in the fields so they can take special care around the sensitive area.

Riparian areas can be simply defined as the area around a surface body of water. This could mean a lake, river, ditch or any other area where water can be found. When field work is being done, farmers need to take special precautions to ensure that no chemicals and sediment is washed into the water body. Filter strips can be installed to buffer and minimize movement of contaminants into the surface water. It is essential that filter strips are properly installed and maintained to ensure their success. Contact your local USDA-NRCS office for information on possible cost share and technical assistance opportunities that they may have to help you with the installation and maintenance of filter strips.

The addition of a buffer strip is important to protect our water resources but they alone cannot safeguard against pollution. Keeping our fields actively growing will help utilize any excess nutrients and reduce soil loss. Adding cover crops or double cropping is an environmental and economical way of doing this. Cover crops can lengthen the amount of time that roots are actively utilizing soil nutrients. A goal for every farm is to have growing plants in their fields for as many months as they can.

If you have any questions on how you can implement cover crops or filter strips into your operation please contact Christina Curell, statewide Extension Water Quality Educator, at curellc@anr.msu.edu or call 231-745-2732.