OCWA, Central New York’s Water Authority, has been working with the Onondaga County Soil & Water Conservation District (OCSWD) since 2013 to encourage farms in the Otisco Lake watershed to plant winter cover crops to reduce erosion and nutrient runoff. OCWA has provided funding for OCSWD to partially reimburse farms that plant an adequate cover crop by October 1st, as well as some personal funds for OCSWD staff to administer the program and work with farms to plan and implement better cover cropping practices. Typically, farms are planting winter wheat or rye or triticale after corn silage harvest, but farms have also tried a mixed cover crop (oats-radish-clover) after small grain harvest in the summer, which requires an earlier planting date to establish significant cover and roots.
Through cover cropping, the “greening” of the watershed is a visible reminder of the practices that farms implement to protect soil health and water quality, and a tangible way that OCWA can support the farms’ efforts and give back to the most significant land use group in the watershed. The OCSWD has cost-shared between 600-700 acres annually, with a bump to 780 acres in 2015 due to additional funding from a NYS Soil Health Mini-grant. OCWA’s financial support was an important part of local matching funds to secure that state grant. Thanks to OCWA for their support to OCSWD and the Otisco Lake cover cropping program!
All of our cover crop participants are farms that have between involved with Agricultural Environmental Management (AME), a free and confidential service through OCSWD. If you are a farm with cropland acres in the Otisco Lake watershed and would like to know more about the cover cropping program with OCWA and OCSWD, please contact Alan Masters or Aaron Buchta at (315) 457-0325 to get information and sign up for fall 2016, so they can budget now and plan this summer.