Conservation practices and/or Best Management Practices (BMPs) are methods, measures, or practices used to protect, maintain, and preserve water quality, wildlife habitat, and soil erosion.  Conservation practices are an essential component in protecting our natural resources.

Agricultural Practices

Terrace Water and Sediment Control Structure Grassed Waterway Manure Storage Structure Grade Stabilization Structure
Diversion Contour Strip Cropping Contour Buffer Strip Contour Farming Planned Grazing System
Prescribed Burning Filter Strip Windbreak Tree Planting Wildlife Food Plot
Farm Pond Streambank Stabilization Woodland Management Riparian Buffer Nutrient Management


Urban Practices

Rain Gardens Native Landscaping Bioretention Cell
BioSwales Pervious Paving Detention Structure
Constructed Wetlands Soil Quality Restoration Green Roofs


Break long slopes into shorter ones.  They usually follow the contour.  As water makes it way down a hill, terraces serve as small dams to intercept water and guide it to an outlet.

There are two basic types of terraces--storage terraces and gradient terraces.  Storage terraces collect water and store it until it can infiltrate into the ground or be released through a stable outlet.  Gradient terraces are designed as a channel to slow runoff water and carry to a stable outlet like a grassed waterway. 


Water and Sediment Control Structure

An embankment is built across a depressional area of concentrated water runoff to act similar to a terrace.  It traps sediment and water running off farmland above the structure, preventing it from reaching farmland below. 

These basins improve water quality by trapping sediment on uplands and preventing it from reaching water bodies. 



Grassed Waterway

A natural drainage way is graded and shaped to form a smooth, bowl-shaped channel.  This area is seeded to sod-forming grasses.  Runoff water that flows down the drainage way flows across the grass rather than tearing away soil and forming a larger gully.  An outlet is often installed at the base of the drainage way to stabilize the waterway and prevent a new gully from forming. 



Manure Storage Structure

The type of manure storage structure you would use depends upon your livestock operation, animal waste management system and planned field application.  Several options exist including an earthen storage pond, above or below ground tank, pit underneath a confinement facility or a sheltered concrete slab area.  Manure can be pumped, scraped and hauled, pushed or flushed into your storage structure.  The structure's purpose is to safely contain the manure and keep nutrient loss and pollution of downstream water bodies to a minimum by preventing runoff. 


Grade Stabilization Structure

A dam, embankment or other structure built across a grassed waterway or existing gully controls and reduces water flow.  The structure drops water from one stabilized grade to another and prevents overfall gullies from advancing up a slope. 

If it is planned to store water, a grade control structure may provide a water source and habitat for wildlife. 




A diversion is much like a terrace, but its purpose is to direct or divert water from an area.  A diversion is often built at the base of a slope to divert runoff away from bottom lands.  A diversion may also be used to divert runoff flows away from a feedlot, or to collect and direct water to a pond. 

Diversions reduce soil erosion on lowlands by catching runoff water and preventing it from reaching farmland below. 



Contour Strip Cropping 

Crops are arranged so that a strip of meadow or small grain is alternated with a strip or row crop.  Not more than half a field can be planted to row crops.  Meadow slows runoff, increasing infiltration, traps sediment and provides surface cover.  Ridges formed by contoured rows slow water flow which reduces erosion.  Rotating the strips from corn to legumes allows nutrient-needy crops to benefit from the nitrogen added to the soil by legumes.  This practice combines the beneficial effects of contouring and crop rotation.  



Contour Buffer Strip

A series of grass strips are placed along the slope on a contour.  The alternating strips of grass or other permanent vegetation slow runoff flow, trap sediment from the crop strips above, and increase water infiltration.  Because the buffer strip is established on the contour, runoff flows evenly across the entire surface of the grass strip, reducing sheet and rill erosion. 



Contour Farming

Crop row ridges built by tilling and planting on the contour create hundreds of small dams.  These ridges or dams slow water flow and increase infiltration which reduces erosion. 

Contouring can reduce soil erosion by as much as 50% from up and down hill farming.  By reducing runoff, and increasing water infiltration, contouring promotes better water quality.                 


Planned Grazing System

Pasture is divided into two or more pastures or paddocks with fencing.  Cattle or moved from paddock to paddock on a pre-arranged schedule based on forage availability and livestock nutrition needs. 

Planned Grazing Systems improve vegetative cover, reducing erosion and improving water quality. 



Prescribed Burning               

Prescribed burning is a conservation practice where fire is applied to a pre-determined area within a prescribed set of conditions, dates and with appropriate safety precautions to achieve specific purposes.

Prescribed fires can be applied to forest land, native pasture, pasture land, wildlife land, hayland, and other land as appropriate. 



Filter Strip

Strips of grasses trees and/or shrubs slow water flow and cause contamination like sediment, chemicals and nutrients to collect in vegetation.  Collected nutrients and chemicals are used by the vegetation, rather than entering water supplies.  Filtered water then enters water bodies. 

Vegetation prevents contamination from entering water bodies, protecting water quality.        



Multiple rows of coniferous trees or a combination of coniferous and deciduous trees planted to protect a farmstead or feedlot from wind and snow.  One or two rows of shrubs are also often planted.  The established windbreak slows wind on the downwind side of the windbreak for a distance of 10 times the height of the trees.  The tree rows also act like a snow fence, trapping snow within the windbreak.  Field windbreaks can also be planted to reduce wind speed in open fields. 



Tree Planting

A variety of desired tree species, either seedlings or seeds, are planted mechanically or by hand in under-stocked woodlands or open fields.  Tree species are matched with soil types and selected to prevent soil erosion, increase income, or boost productivity of existing woodland.

Ground cover created by trees and associated debris protects soil from rill and sheet erosion.  Ground cover also protects water quality by filtering excess nutrients and chemicals from surface runoff and increasing infiltration rates. 


Wildlife food plot

Food plots may be established either within an existing crop field or in a separate location.  You may simply leave for rows of corn standing after harvest to provide food for wildlife over the winter.  Or you may plant a small plot elsewhere.  These plots help wildlife through the winter when food supplies are in short supply. 




Farm Pond

A typical farm pond is formed by building a dam across an existing gully or low lying area.  Earth for the dam is dug out above the dam with heavy machinery to form a bowl.  Generally the ponded area fills with water within a year.  An overflow pipe is installed through the dam to control the water level and allow water to spill through the dam without causing erosion. 



Streambank Stabilization

Streambank Stabilization is used to stabilize and protect banks of streams or constructed channels, and shorelines of lakes, reservoirs, or estuaries.  It is used to prevent the loss land or damage to land uses, or other facilities adjacent to the banks, including the protection of known historical, archeological, and traditional cultural properties.  Streambank Stabilization maintains the flow or storage capacity of the water body or to reduce the offsite or downstream effects of sediment resulting from bank erosion.  It also improves or enhances the stream corridor for fish and wildlife habitat, aesthetics, recreation. 


woodland management

Existing woodland or other suitable land is dedicated to timber production.  Livestock is excluded.  Optimum tree populations are determined by the kinds of trees planted and their adaptability to your soils.  Existing trees or newly planted trees are thinned, pruned and harvested to maintain desired production. 




Riparian buffer

A riparian buffer is an area of trees and or shrubs and grasses located adjacent to and up-gradient from streams or water bodies.  Riparian buffers reduce excess amounts of sediment, organic material from livestock waste, nutrients, pesticides, and other pollutants in surface runoff, and reduce excess nutrients and other chemicals in shallow ground water flow.  Riparian buffers improve water quality by establishing permanent tree and herbaceous cover on floodplain areas subject to out-of-bank flow and/or scour erosion. 


nutrient management

After taking a soil test, setting realistic yield goals, and taking credit for contributions from previous years' crops and manure applications, crop nutrients needs are determined.  Nutrients are then applied at the proper time by the proper application method.  Nutrient sources include animal manure, sludge, and commercial fertilizers.  These steps reduce the potential for nutrients to go unused and wash or infiltrate into water supplies.