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Conservation Choices

About total resource management

The key to a successful total resource management system is careful, complete planning. Like the pieces of a jigsaw puzzle, each practice fits together with others to complete a picture. But anybody who has spent a rainy Sunday afternoon piecing together a jigsaw puzzle knows it takes patience, organization and teamwork.

When designing a total resource management plan you need to consider all the resources on your farm. Take an inventory; think about every field, pasture, pond, stream, and wooded area. Then consider which soil conservation, water quality, wildlife habitat and energy conservation practices would contribute to an environmentally and economically sound farm.

Some of the most profitable practices, like pest or nutrient management take little or no financial investment and have the highest impact on water quality. For example, scouting crops, selecting pest control alternatives and targeting control in problem areas can cut expenses and improve water quality.

The planning process may seem overwhelming, but that is where teamwork can help. There are federal, state and local agencies available to help you plan, implement and maintain your total resource management system. You might also consider using a private crop consultant. Make use of the technical experts to choose sound environmental, conservation and profitable practices for your farm.

Total resource management checklist: some basic questions

  • What are the natural resources on my farm?
  • What are the crops to be grown?
  • Have I minimized runoff?
  • Am I using crop rotations to reduce disease and pest problems?
  • What type of wildlife would I like on my farm?
  • Does any practice interfere with or cancel out another practice?
  • Can I use wetlands or filter strips to filter nutrients from runoff water?
  • Am I making the best use of animal manure as nutrients for plants?

Challenges Ahead

Farmers are applying conservation and environmental practices to their land at record rates. They are protecting water resources by scouting fields for pests, establishing buffer zones of vegetation along streams and creeks and storing animal manure until conditions are right for field application. They are saving soil by leaving more residues on crop fields, building terraces, and farming on the contour.

Farmers have accepted the challenge of protecting our natural resources and continue to educate themselves about new technologies and techniques as they are developed. Consider this as another tool to help you meet the conservation and environmental challenges ahead.

Select practices which will help you balance the needs of the environment with your own economic needs and the needs of the hundreds of people you help feed every year. Use the human resources available to you as well. Technical staff from several federal and state agencies as well as agribusiness specialists and private crop consultants, will help you protect your land and water.