By Roberta Baumann
Managing Editor, Waunakee Tribune
Waunakee area farmers are implementing more conservation minded practices to keep phosphorous out of the Lake Mendota watershed, and at a special event next they’ll share those new innovations.
Through techniques such as planting cover crops, vertical manure injection and conservation tillage, the farmers are helping to improve the quality of the Yahara Lakes.
On Oct. 21 and 23, two area farms will demonstrate their techniques to other farmers and agronomists as part of the Yahara Pride Farms’ second annual Ag Innovation Days.
Don Heilman, director of Yahara Pride Farms, says the organization is farmer led.
It was started by the Clean Lakes Alliance to “actively promote agriculture and good conservation practices,” Heilman said.
“We’ve been testing new innovations in agriculture and helping to cost-share projects that will demonstration to farmers what works and what doesn’t,” Heilman said.
He noted that planting cover crops and employing vertical manure injection to fertilize are relatively new practices.
Heilman said the Clean Lakes Alliance has cost shared $23,075 with area farms to implement the new techniques.
“They see on their own the benefit to soil health and water infiltration,” Heilman said.
A manure injection system costs about $30,000, Heilman said. But Yahara Pride has offered a unit to travel from farm to farm so it can be used in multiple operations.
“Two of the farms have picked it up on their own as a result of what they’ve found,” Heilman said.
The program also cost shares $40 per acre for farmers to plant cover crops, Heilman said.
Many of the farms involved are in the Waunakee and DeForest areas, he added.
“That’s where a lot of dairy is,” Heilman said.
Ag Innovation Days will be held on Oct. 21 at Lonnie Hahn’s Farm from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. at 6932 Schumacher Road at the intersection of Hauser Road. It will include a cover crop station with a dig to see the root growth, vertical manure injection demonstrations, a compost exhibit and a live action manure spill response demonstration.
On Oct. 23 from 10 a..m.-2 p.m., Walter Meinholz’s Blue Star Dairy at 5209 Daley Road in DeForest will demonstrate cover crop test strip varieties, vertical manure injection, conservation tillage and more.
During both days, field experts from the UW-Extension, Dane County land conservation staff and the Department of Natural Resources will be available at an exhibitor area. Lunch will served with food provided by the Lodi Sausage Co. and Meat Market.
Several sponsors have made the event possible.
Heilman said planting cover crops prevents runoff by keeping soil in place. It also helps keep nitrogen in place, preventing it from seeping into the aquifer, he said.
Vertical manure injection – an alternative to spreading on the fields – also prevents runoff, keeping pounds of algae-producing phosphorus from entering the lakes, Heilman said.
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