Core4 » Conservation Buffers

Conservation Buffers

Conservation buffers are small areas or strips of land in permanent vegetation, designed to slow water runoff, provide shelter and stabilize riparian areas. Strategically placed buffer strips in the agricultural landscape can effectively mitigate the movement of sediment, nutrients, and pesticides within farm fields and from farm fields.

Buffers include: contour buffer strips, field borders, filter strips, grassed waterways, living snow fences, riparian buffers, shelterbelts/windbreaks, (grass, shrubs and trees), and wetlands.

The small amount of land taken out of production helps producers meet environmental and economic goals.
 

Key Messages

Conservation buffers protect soil, improve air and water quality, enhance fish and wildlife habitat, and beautify the landscape.

Conservation buffers shows a producer’s commitment to conservation and their willingness to protect the environment.
 

Benefits of Conservation Buffers

  • Slow water runoff.
  • Remove up to 50% or more of nutrients and pesticides in runoff.
  • Remove up do 60% or more of pathogens in runoff.
  • Remove up to 75% or more of sediment in runoff.
  • Reduce noise and odor.
  • Serve as a source of food, nesting cover, and shelter for wildlife.
  • Stabilize streambanks and reduce water temperature in stream.
  • Provide a setback distance for agricultural chemical use from watercourses.
  • Reduce downstream flooding
  • Represents profitable, common sense conservation for landowners.
  • Reduced risk of tractor rollover due to set back of steep ditch or creek.
  • Take advantage of incentives. provided to establish buffers from local, state, and federal  programs.
  • Establishment of natural vegetation.
 

Types of buffers:

Contour buffer strips – narrow bands of vegetation established across the slope of a crop field and alternated down the slope with strips of crops.

Field border – strips of vegetation planted at the edge of fields, that are can be used for turn areas or travel lanes for machinery.

Filter strips – strips of grass or other vegetation used to slow water runoff from a field. These intercept or trap sediment, nutrients, pesticides and other pollutants before they reach a river, lake or stream.

Grassed waterways – strips of grass on areas where water is concentrated as it runs off a field. Used primarily to prevent and control gully erosion, waterways also act as a filter, trapping sediment and other pollutants.

Living snow fence
– Trees and/or shrubs designed to control drifting snow to protect buildings, roads and other property. They can be installed to help protect nearby areas for livestock, provide wildlife cover and enhance soil moisture.

Riparian buffers – streamside plantings of trees, shrubs and grasses that can intercept pollutants from both surface and ground water before they reach a river or stream. Provides habitat for wildlife and also enhances fish habitat.

Shelterbelts/windbreaks – a row or rows of trees and/or shrubs used to reduce wind erosion, protect field crops and shelter from blowing snow. Shelterbelts also provide protection from the elements for houses, farm buildings, livestock and wildlife.

Wetlands – areas of shallow water within or near cropland that have water loving grasses, shrubs and/or trees growing in and around the area. These act as a filter and provide wildlife habitat.

Conservation planning with the Core 4 approach.

As each year passes, we improve our understanding of how to manage for better soil, cleaner water, greater profits and a brighter future. We call this management approach the Core 4. The four fundamental components integrated into this approach are: Conservation Tillage; Crop Nutrient Management; Weed and Pest Management; and Conservation Buffers. If you’d like to learn more about the Core 4 approach, call your local agronomic and/or natural resources professional:
  • Agricultural Retailer
  • Certified Crop Advisor
  • Conservation District
  • Extension Agent
  • Independent Crop Consultant
  • Natural Resources Conservation Service