Dane County Continues Work to Clean Up Lakes: Will Plant Cover Crops by Airplane

September 12, 2017
Susan Sandford, 224-3617
Land & Water Resources

Dane County Continues Work to Clean Up Lakes

Will Plant Cover Crops by Airplane

Madison, Wisc. – Farms in DeForest, Waunakee, Sun Prairie and Fitchburg will be planting their cover crops a little differently this September as part of Dane County’s lakes cleanup efforts.  Dane County farmers, in partnership with Dane County Land and Water Resources Department, UW-Extension, Yahara WINS, and the Natural Resources Conservation Service are piloting a program in the Yahara River Watershed that utilizes aerial application of cover crop seed on early harvested crops.

 “From cleaning what is already in our streams, to partnering with our farmers and cities, we need an all hands on deck approach to cleaning up our lakes,” said Dane County Executive Joe Parisi. “Dane County will continue to lead our lakes cleanup effort.”

Cover crops are planted in agricultural fields after cash crops are harvested, protecting soil and water quality. These plants reduce water runoff, soil erosion, and nutrient loss, protect water quality, suppress weeds management, conserve water, and improve soil health. Cover crops are one of many conservation practice options that agricultural producers can implement to help protect their soil and local waterways by reducing runoff.

Dairyland Aviation will be applying cover crop seed by airplane to approximately 1,100 acres, between September 10 and September 15, but like all farming, it will be weather dependent. This aerial seeding is only cover crop seed and does not contain herbicides or pesticides and should not impact individuals or private lands. 

Funds for the project come from Dane County’s Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP) grant through USDA-NRCS, a five year project focused on implementing agricultural conservation practices throughout the Yahara River Watershed. Dane County has funding to help farmers implement a variety of different conservation practices.

This effort compliments the other projects and programs that are already taking place in Dane County to help improve water quality in our lakes, rivers and streams. Dane County Executive Joe Parisi has prioritized lakes cleanup efforts including the breakthrough project that will remove legacy phosphorous from feeder streams expected to remove almost a million pounds of algae producing phosphorous from our lakes. The first phase of that work, a stretch from Dorn Creek between Waunakee and Middleton, will start in the coming weeks.

Agricultural producers interested in learning more about cover crops and other cost-share program opportunities for the 2018 growing season can contact the Dane County Land Conservation Division at (608) 224-3730 or landcon@countyofdane.com.