I learned so much just by visiting the Red Cedar Demonstration Farm last week. One thing is learning about conservation agriculture through a textbook and another is seeing it right before your eyes. I thought I knew what no-till farming was until I saw what no-till farming really is. I was in awe. I never thought about how even if a field had been converted into no-till for a couple of years’ the soil still showed signs of compaction. It was still so compacted that even after 10 minutes of water sitting on top of it, it would not percolate down. John Sippl, the district conversationalist, shoveled out 7-inches of soil and we all were able to see the layers of compaction. I was under the impression that no-till would have fixed this but John explained how no-till is used to mitigate erosion. No till serves as a method to grow crops without disturbing the soil thus decreasing erosion but in order to decrease this compaction, John explained how cover crops roots adds complexity to the soil structure which leads water to percolate into the soil easily as well as lessen erosion too.
What I learned at the farm ties to the work I am doing this summer, Elizabeth and I have spent about a week preparing maps on land cover, slope, and stream accessibility. These maps will help us pick potential study sites to do field work in. An aspect of our project is to map vegetation buffers along secondary streams close to Menomonie as well as access water quality. The way we would do this is by flying a camera attached to kite over these areas to capture the conditions below. The reason we are interested in the presence of buffers is due to erosion. I learned at the farm that the speed of a falling raindrop can be more than 20 miles per hour. Its impact is reduced by any type of plant matter before it hits the soil. If there is no plant matter, then soil particles can be dislodged from the ground and would be free to run off into the local stream if there is no vegetation buffer present. I expect to learn about the physical condition of streams throughout the summer.