Conservation practices Maryland farmers are implementing to help reduce nutrient loading in the Chesapeake Bay watershed are being undercounted, a new report suggests.
A study released in March by soil conservation experts says conservation on Maryland farms may be underestimated by 40% to 50%, citing undocumented practices that were discovered on farms in Queen Anne’s, Kent and Howard counties, the Star Democrat (Easton, Md.) says.
On-site reviews of conservation efforts in the Upper Chester Watershed verified 10 riparian grass buffers, grassed waterways and filter strips, along with three water-control structures and three sediment ponds.
Another review of 30% of Howard County’s farms identified up to 50% more best-management practices than were accounted for in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed Model, which estimates the amount of nutrients and sediment reaching the watershed.
Howard County also showed nitrogen, phosphorus and sediment-loss levels well below the permitted limits.
Since most of the practices were installed and funded by farmers, rather than cost-share programs, they weren’t credited for contributing to Maryland’s Watershed Implementation Plan (WIP) efforts. Members of the Chesapeake Bay Program are developing criteria for when the practices should be credited.