Healthy soil and well-managed precipitation are what all farmers and ranchers depend on to grow crops.
Food is the most obvious connection between farmers and ranchers who produce it, and their customers who consume it. A less obvious, but equally important, connection between these groups is fresh water.
Water is the single most important constraint on our thirsty planet. It's as much a product of farmland as the food we consume.
The quantity and quality of our fresh water streams, lakes and underground aquifers are directly impacted by farmers and ranchers. That is why Sand County Foundation works at the intersection of upstream farmers and ranchers and downstream water users.
We demonstrate specific management practices that protect soil and water, utilize it more efficiently, and maximize the environmental benefits and productive capacity of agricultural systems. Sand County Foundation is a trusted partner to farmers and ranchers, which allows us access to private farmland to test, develop, demonstrate, monitor and promote new management tools.
Sand County Foundation is collaborating with farmers in southern Wisconsin to install strips of diverse native perennial vegetation within row crop fields. These prairie filter strips can improve water quality by capturing sediment and nutrients in water that runs off of fields, while also providing habitat for pollinators and grassland birds.
In partnership with the City of Oconomowoc, we collect in-stream data to determine phosphorus concentrations and depth levels at five locations along the Oconomowoc River in southeast Wisconsin.
Sand County Foundation is assisting a southeast Wisconsin village with outreach to farmers to implement conservation practices that will limit the amount of phosphorus entering local waterways.
Installing drainage tile allows farmers to manage the seasonal draining of water from farmland. This provides insurance against drought, and reduces the amount of nitrogen entering waterways. Sand County Foundation is working with the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service to promote the installation of these structures.
The same gypsum used to make wall board may play a role in water quality improvement. Sand County Foundation is evaluating gypsum extracted from the exhaust of electric power plants and applied to cropland as a way to reduce phosphorus draining into lakes and rivers after intense rainstorms.
In Iowa, where excess nitrogen draining from farmland threatens water quality, we’ve worked with partners to develop subsurface bioreactors that remove nitrogen from drainage water.
With partners, Sand County Foundation began Wisconsin’s first watershed-wide phosphorus pollution reduction project using the state’s innovative Adaptive Management Option. The AMO allows municipal governments to save money by preventing phosphorus pollution rather than treating water to remove phosphorus.
Farmers often have low-lying land that produces crops poorly or at considerable expense. We have demonstrated and tested an alternative use for those areas. Constructed wetlands keep nutrients on the farm and out of waterways.