This week, the Minnesota Board of Water and Soil Resources (BWSR) approved variable width buffers as an alternative practice to the 50-foot constant-width buffer. Thanks to the foresight of Land O’Lakes, local ag retailers can now help farmers achieve the same water quality benefits achieved with a constant width buffer, while taking only ½ the land out of production. Land O’Lakes SUSTAIN field specialists will provide the variable-width planning service through Land O’Lakes member agricultural retailers in Minnesota.
Land O’Lakes’ ability to design variable width buffers, using Agren® BufferBuilder, is an enormous step forward. It is a win for conservationists who can now realize the vision and benefits of precision conservation (targeting effective conservation). This is also a win for farmers who have known all along there are areas in their fields where buffers are totally ineffective, and now they don’t need to take those acres out of production.
Agren® BufferBuilder is an on-line software service that allows users to plan variable-width buffers. These variable width buffers are designed to trap equal or greater amounts of sediment than would be trapped by a 50-ft, constant-width buffer in the same field. The width of the variable width buffer can be increased where “wider is better” and be narrowed where there is little sediment delivery or where buffers are ineffective.
BufferBuilder utilizes the well-researched Revised Universal Soil Loss Equation 2 (RUSLE2), combined with high-resolution digital elevation models derived from Minnesota’s LiDAR data, to model water and sediment movement within a field and enable this analysis.
Minnesota Board of Water and Soil Resources will still require a minimum buffer along every regulated water body. For fields adjacent to public waters, the minimum buffer width is 16.5 feet; for fields adjacent to ditches, the minimum width is 5 feet.
As a staunch supporter of precision conservation, I want to personally thank Land O’Lakes for their efforts in helping farmers with precision conservation. Precision conservation is the only way American agriculture will accomplish their conservation objectives. There is a lot of work yet to be done, but Land O’Lakes is leading the charge.