Benefits of filter strips listed 2012.06.27

Written by David Green.

Landowners are likely to finance filter strips with cost share programs, not credit cards, but like those credit card commercials say, the benefits are priceless. Not only do filter strips protect water quality by trapping soil particles, nutrients and pesticides, they can also improve water infiltration and enhance wildlife habitat.

The recommended vegetation and dimensions vary depending on soils, land uses, and surface water flow (runoff), but filter strips all have the same basic function. Ideally, water runoff spreads out and flows as a thin “sheet” across the filter strip. Vegetation slows the runoff enough to let some suspended soil particles, plant debris and other contaminants settle out. This reduces sedimentation in streams. Trapping sediments in filter strips can be especially beneficial in streams that provide subsurface drainage outlets, as it can help reduce sediment removal costs associated with drainage maintenance.

Some plant nutrients, such as phosphorus and the ammonium form of nitrogen, bind to soil sediment, so trapping the sediment also traps those nutrients. Certain pesticides are also trapped with soil particles. In the filter strip, those pesticides break down and the nutrients fertilize the vegetation rather than disrupting the balance of life in the water downstream. 

Another advantage is that water moving slowly through a filter strip has more time to soak in instead of running off and adding to surface flow. The ground in a filter strip is often more permeable than crop ground, so water soaks in faster, too. 

Filter strips offer a variety of other benefits. The setback afforded by filter strips generally assures that less drift from spray applications will reach ditches or streams. This setback also provides a greater measure of safety to farm operators, as machinery can’t operate as close to potentially hazardous stream or ditch banks. Under certain conditions, filter strips may also offer access to fields that might otherwise be hard to reach at certain times of the year.

Although filter strips usually aren’t installed primarily to benefit wildlife, the vegetation provides food and cover that is especially attractive to songbirds and small mammals. The strips can also become travel corridors so wildlife can move from one area of habitat to another without the risk of crossing open fields.

Researchers have measured the advantages of filter strips with small-scale studies on individual fields and small watersheds. But showing the benefits in larger watersheds is still a challenge. Even if a filter strip makes a dramatic difference in the quality of water leaving a particular field, the benefit can be hard to measure in water from the whole watershed. That’s why it’s so important for landowners throughout a watershed to install filter strips.

For more information about putting in filter strips contact the Fulton SWCD at 419-337-9217 or visit the website at: http://swcd.fultoncountyoh.com.

  • Front.nok Hok
    GAMES DAY—Finn Molitierno (right) celebrates a goal during a game of Nok Hockey with his sister, Kyla. The two tried out a variety of games Saturday at Stair District Library’s annual International Games Day event. One of the activities featured a sort of scavenger hunt in which participants had to locate facts presented in the Smithsonian Hometown Teams exhibit. The traveling show left Morenci’s library Tuesday, wrapping up a series of programs that began Oct. 2. Additional photos are on page 7.
  • Station.2
    STRANGE STUFF—Morenci Elementary School students learn that blue isn’t really blue when seen through the right color of lens. Volunteer April Pike presents the lesson to students at one of the many stations brought to the school by the COSI science center. The theme of this year’s visit was the solar system.
  • Front.leaves
    MAPLE leaves show their fall colors in a puddle at Morenci’s Riverside Natural Area. “This was a great year for colors,” said local weather watcher George Isobar. Chilly mornings will give way to seasonable fall temperatures for the next two weeks.
  • Front.band
    MORENCI Marching Band member Brittany Dennis keeps the beat Friday during the half-time show of the Morenci/Pittsford football game. Color guard member Jordan Cordts is at the left. The band performed this season under the direction of Doyle Rodenbeck who served as Morenci’s band director in the 1970s. He’s serving as a substitute during a family leave.
  • Front.poles
    MOVING EAST—Utility workers continue their slow progress east along U.S. 20 south of Morenci. New electrical poles are put in place before wiring is moved into place.
  • Front.cowboy
    A PERFORMER named Biligbaatar, a member of the AnDa Union troupe from Inner Mongolia, dances at Stair District Library last week during a visit to the Midwest. The nine-member group blends a variety of traditions from Inner and Outer Mongolia. The music is described as drawing from “all the Mongol tribes that Genghis Khan unified.” The group considers itself music gatherers whose goal is to preserve traditional sounds of Mongolia. Biligbaatar grew up among traditional herders who live in yurts. Additional photos are on the back page of this week’s Observer.
  • Front.bear
    HOLDEN HUTCHISON gives a hug to a black bear cub—the product of a taxidermist’s skills—at the Michigan DNR’s Great Youth Jamboree. The event on Sunday marked the fourth year of the Jamboree. Additional photos are on page 12.

Weekly newspaper serving SE Michigan and NW Ohio - State Line Observer ©2006-2016