Research at dairy farms in Vermont shows how management practices can affect water quality, economics, and greenhouse gas emissions.
Agriculture is a common land use for the well-drained and productive soils of Vermont’s Winooski floodplain. Intense rain and flooding events are increasing throughout the Northeast as the climate changes. If not managed, this trend will worsen nutrient loss, runoff, and erosion from farm fields. More nutrient loss and erosion leads to poorer water quality within watersheds. Agriculture is already a primary contributor of phosphorus to Lake Champlain.
To address this issue, scientists from the University of Vermont (UVM) are assessing alternative farming practices on dairy farms. Their research is studying how well the different practices meet water quality goals and climate change mitigation efforts. By measuring runoff, leaching, and greenhouse gas emissions across small watersheds on working farms, they can find ways to reduce the impacts of farming. For example, certain farming practices can help to reduce phosphorus levels. Researchers are also keeping track of how much it costs the farmers to use these practices and if there are any positive or negative effects on crop yields. The goal is to find ways to make farms in the northeastern United States more economically and environmentally resilient to climate change.
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Available resources from this tour:
- Seasoned farmer Andy Jones talks about the seasons at Intervale Community Farm and how he stays ahead of the weather (UVM Farming and Climate Change Adaptation Blog)
- Technology Enables Vermont Dairy Farmer to Measure Positive Impacts of Conservation (USDA)
- How costly are climate change best management practices to implement? (Sustainable Food Economist)
- Making an Impact: UVM Extension's work in Water Quality on 'Across The Fence'
- UVM Extension Research: Water Quality & Garden Author Doug Tallamy on 'Across The Fence'
- Evaluating Greenhouse Gas Emissions in Promising Tillage and Manure Application Practices at Borderview Farm
- How Do Farmers Think about Climate Risk? A Study of On-Farm Decision Making in an Era of Climate Change
- NRCS Practice Standard 590 (Nutrient Management)
- Farm Energy, Carbon, and Greenhouse Gases