University of Vermont

Soil Nutrient and Manure Research at The University of Vermont Managed riparian buffers and cover crops to minimize phosphorus and nitrogen runoff losses from corn fields

Bill Jokela and Jeffrey Hughes,

Duration: 1995-2000

Phosphorus and nitrogen lost from silage corn fields are significant pollutants of surface waters in the Northeast. The goal of this project is to evaluate three field management alternatives to minimize runoff losses of phosphorus (P) and nitrogen (N) from corn fields into adjacent streams. We are comparing the effectiveness of riparian (streamside) buffer strips of grass-legume hay (25 ft and 50 ft widths) and also a grass cover crop in corn, against a control treatment of corn planted to the stream edge. The use of buffer strips has been encouraged, and even mandated in some cases (VT Accepted Agricultural Practices), but based on very little Vermont research. The management practices in this study offer an economic return to the farmer on land that would be non-productive if converted to a natural forest riparian zone (the recommended practice). Four small watersheds in a 15-acre field on a dairy farm in Vermont's Champlain Valley were selected for study and fully instrumented to monitor runoff. Using a paired watershed design, we first calibrated the fields and then implemented the three management systems. We are currently comparing P and N runoff losses from the different treatments. Preliminary results for the first four months of the treatment period show reductions in runoff losses of both eroded sediment and phosphorus with implementation of buffer strips. Monitoring of treatment effects, including runoff losses, crop yields, and soil nutrient levels, will be continued through the 1999 season. The economic impact to the farmer of the management alternatives, including crop yields, will be evaluated and findings will be disseminated to farming and environmental groups through site visits and extension publications.

This site is maintained by, Plant & Soil Science Department, University of Vermont.

Sponsored by:

Issued in furtherance of Cooperative Extension work, Acts of May 8 and June 30, 1914, in cooperation with the United States Department of Agriculture. University of Vermont Extension, Burlington, Vermont.University of Vermont Extension and U.S. Department of Agriculture, cooperating, offer education and employment to everyone without regard to race, color, national origin, sex, religion, age, disability, political beliefs, or marital or familial status

Last modified May 26 2004 12:55 PM

Contact UVM © 2018 The University of Vermont - Burlington, VT 05405 - (802) 656-3131