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Seven years of water-quality monitoring have intensified the Bragger family’s commitment to conservation. “We have to be aggressive in farming — we have families to support,” Bragger says. “But at the same time, we have to take care of our land so the next generation can farm. If we run it down, wash it out, destroy it, it won’t be there for future generations.”
Bragger Farm busts common runoff assumptions
- Farm setting is a good predictor of runoff rates. False! The Braggers’ land slopes from 6% to 33%, yet the farm has minimal environmental effects on water quality, according to Wisconsin Discovery Farms.
- High slopes equal high runoff rates. False!The farm’s average runoff rate is 2.5% on cropped acres and 1.8% on grass and woodland acres.
- Surface application of manure means higher P loss. False! “We don’t incorporate manure to avoid soil disturbance,” Joe Bragger says. “But we have to be very careful of rates and timing.” Fall cover crops, seeded with manure immediately after corn silage harvest, take up nutrients and sequester them for the next crop.
- Traditional “ribbon” buffers provide the best protection for small streams. False! Traditional 30-foot ribbon buffers are not practical in the Braggers’ narrow valleys. However, grass buffers where runoff enters streams, along with meticulous annual maintenance of grassy stream banks, effectively protects the Braggers’ small waterways.
- Wooded areas contribute little runoff or sediment. False!Concentrated water flow carved gullies in the farm’s woodlands. Seven check dams in the upper watershed, with temporary water retention areas, capture sediment and release water slowly, lowering its erosive force and protecting cropland below.