Agriculture / Agriculture BMPs


As farmers, you work more closely to the land than most people. This guide has been created with you in mind to share information about agricultural practices that help protect your soil and water while saving you money and preventing future problems from occurring. Below are examples of practices that are beneficial to your business as well as the land and wildlife.  


Practical Conservation Practices and the Benefits


Exclusion Fencing: Permanent fencing (board, barbed, high tensile or electric wire) installed to exclude livestock from streams and critical areas not intended for grazing to improve water quality. This will keep livestock out of the stream where they could get injured or even drown in high stream flows; prevents cattle from eroding the side banks and helps improve the health and retention of the pasture.


Cover Crops: Crops, such as winter rye or clover, planted between periods of regular crop production to prevent soil erosion and provide humus or nitrogen. Benefit:Reduction of water runoff and soil erosion into streams, enhance soil structure stability, preserve soil nutrients, and suppress weeds, pests and diseases.

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Proper Stocking Rates: The right number of animals on a given amount of land over a certain period of time that the land can support and is sustainable over time per unit of land area. Benefit: This will allow the farmer to gain as much from his land as possible without exhausting its resources and causing soil to erode away or lose its nutrients.


Rotational Grazing: A process whereby livestock are strategically moved to fresh paddocks, or partitioned pasture areas, to allow vegetation in previously grazed pastures to regenerate. Rotational grazing allows vegetation to grow back and stabilize the soil before it erodes away into the local streams, and has shown to increase livestock health.  

                     Learn More:


Stream Bank Restoration and Protection: Stabilizing the stream bank to prevent soil erosion and protecting water quality. This helps to reduce property loss due to erosion, protect livestock from injury on unstable stream banks, reduce sediment loads in stream, and improve overall aquatic life.


Crop Rotations: The practice of growing different crops in succession on the same land chiefly to preserve the productive capacity of the soil. The benefits include soil fertility improvement, pest management support, and soil erosion and pollution reduction in nearby waterways.

         Learn More: Crop Rotations by UT Extension


Manure Composting: Controlled aerobic decomposition of animal manures and poultry litter to produce a stable, homogenous, soil-like amendment. This controlled decomposition potentially reduces parasite transmission in pastures, movement of manure solids and pathogens into nearby streams, and growth of weed seeds.


Alternative Livestock Watering Systems: Different means of supplying clean water to livestock. Benefits include: Year-round access to clean water for livestock, reduction of cattle injuries from drinking water, increase in water consumption, reduction of waterborne diseases in cattle, and reduction of stream bank erosion.

                     Learn More:


Tree Plantings in Riparian Zones: Planting different riparian zone trees along streams to help stabilize the soil where stream bank erosion has occurred. The benefits include: reduction of streambank erosion and more shade for the cattle.

                     Learn More:


Vegetating Bare Soil: Improving plant growth on exposed soils with vegetation by adding the recommended rates of lime and fertilizer to fields, seeding with the appropriate grasses, and live staking stream banks with appropriate plant species. This practice reduces soil erosion and gully formation, increases agricultural production from unproductive areas, and reduces agricultural runoff into streams.


Creation of Safe Stream Crossing Areas: A safe area to cross a stream constructed of geotextile and gravel, and built to withstand water force and flooding, that improve access for livestock and allow vehicles to cross. This reduces cattle injury by giving them a safe place to cross and drink water and allows farm equipment to be able to easily travel from one side of the stream to the other.​​

                    Learn More:   USDA-NRCS Conservation Practice Standard Overview - Stream Crossing (578)

Top 10 Agricultural Best Management Practices
for Increasing Farm Profits and Water Quality


1. Maintain a permanently vegetated buffer (preferably woody plants) along stream banks to filter sediment, nutrients, and pesticides by slowing runoff and increasing infiltration.

2. Implement no-till or conservation tillage to reduce erosion, runoff, and fuel and labor costs.

3. Use rotational grazing and keep livestock away from stream banks by providing alternate sources of water. 

4. Plant cover crops to prevent erosion and enrich soil nutrients.

5. Implement pasture management practices such as rotational grazing to prevent soil erosion and nutrient runoff.

6. Get manure/litter and soil tested in order to be able to calculate an appropriate application rate. Use the sufficiency approach for nutrient application - feed the plants, not the soil.

7. Calibrate all equipment used to apply pesticides or manure/fertilizer to increase accuracy of application rate (reduces waste and saves money).

8. Create grassed waterways to convert natural drainage ways into wide, shallow channels that prevent formation of gullies, intercept runoff, and increase infiltration.

9. Construct protected heavy-use areas in places that receive heavy traffic from livestock to reduce sediment and organic loads in runoff.

10. Store and handle agricultural chemicals safely (in concrete-floored storage buildings) and recycle fluids.

Source: Center for Environmental Education


Funding and Support Programs:

USDA/NRCS Conservation Programs:

Financial Assistance programs:

Easement Programs:

Landscape Planning:


Resources and Support:

For more information on these practical conservation practices click the links below to find articles, reports, brochures, guides, and more!




Phosphorus in the Environment:

Best Management Practices for Phosphorous in the Environment

Water Quality and its Affects:

Coliform Bacteria - An Indicator of Water Quality

Improving Stream Water Quality on Beef Cattle Farms

 Best Management Practices on Farms for Water Quality:

Agricultural and Urban Best Management Practices for Water Quality