Long-term use of cover crops can increase crop yields, reduce fertilizer inputs, improve soil health, and decrease water runoff. Different cover crop species and mixes are available to address specific needs such as controlling erosion, recycling nutrients, fixing nitrogen, reducing compaction, managing soil moisture, and producing forage.
So, you think you want a pond…?
Ponds dot the landscape of Ohio and have for a very long time. Initially, ponds were created to provide a reserve source of water for the farm to water livestock, provide fire protection, enable fish production, and other purposes. However, in today’s changing land-use landscape, ponds offer a source for recreation, creating wildlife habitat, or improving the aesthetics of a property. There is more to building and managing a pond than digging a hole and grabbing a lawn chair! Some of the things to consider include:
- Are the soils conducive to having a pond? Some soils hold water better than others. A pond can leak due to improper soils, incorrect construction methods, and/or porous geologic formations resulting in a mud hole. Evaluation of the soils at a pond site can determine if a pond is economically feasible. Ponds are expensive; even more so if additional material needs hauled in to seal the bottom. Preliminary information on soils and their suitability can be obtained from the Web Soil Survey (https://websoilsurvey.sc.egov.usda.gov/App/HomePage.htm), or by contacting the Licking County Soil & Water Conservation District at 740.670.5330.
- What is the source of water to fill and maintain a pond? Ponds can be filled and maintained through a variety of water sources including surface runoff, streams, and springs. If surface runoff is the main source of water for the pond, is there a sufficient number of acres to provide the volume of water necessary for the size of pond desired? The Licking County Soil & Water Conservation District can assist in determining the watershed to see if it is suitable for the size of pond being considered.
- What impact will a pond have to adjacent properties? Regardless of the source of water to fill and maintain a pond (springs, runoff, streams), careful consideration is warranted regarding the impact and location of the overflow and emergency spillway. Ohio Drainage Law is complex, but is based on "reasonable use". A landowner may drain surface water from their property in a "reasonable manner". Additional information may be obtained from The Ohio State University at https://farmoffice.osu.edu/blog-tags/ohio-drainage-law and also at https://farmoffice.osu.edu/sites/aglaw/files/site-library/Understanding%20Water%20Rights%20in%20Ohio.pdf. The Ohio Farm Bureau Federation also has information on Ohio Drainage Law at: https://ofbf.org/2014/03/06/five-tips-on-drainage-law/.
- How is the pond going to be managed? While a pond can provide a valuable asset to a property, it must be managed to maintain its contribution as an asset rather than a liability. Several methods exist to manage unwanted or excessive vegetation (algae, cattails, aquatic growth), which include biologic approaches (various species of fish) and chemical approaches (dyes, herbicides, algaecides, etc.). Aeration is another approach that has been shown to improve water quality, increase oxygen in the water, discourage growth of algae, and promotes healthier fish.
- Are permits required? Landowners desiring a pond should check with several agencies to determine if a permit is required. These include the Licking County Planning Department (https://lickingcounty.gov/depts/planning/default.htm, 740.670.5200), Ohio Department of Natural Resources, Division of Water Resources (http://water.ohiodnr.gov/safety/dam-safety/about, 614.265.6620), and the Township Zoning Inspector (if applicable; https://lickingcounty.gov/about/township.htm). Permit requirements are usually determined by the location of the pond (where in the county or municipality, proximity to roads and houses, etc.), whether the proposed pond is in a floodplain, the effect on neighbors and adjacent landowners, and if the pond is dug out or will have a dam.
- Find a reputable contractor. Locate a contractor who has the knowledge, experience, and equipment to build a pond. One question to ask is do they have a sheepsfoot roller and know how to use it. A sheepsfoot roller is used to compact material. The bottom layer of a pond needs to be compacted correctly to enable it to hold water and not leak. The Licking County Soil & Water Conservation District has an incomplete list of contractors; inclusion on the contractor list is not an endorsement over other contractors who may also be qualified.
- Consider incorporating a dry hydrant. A dry hydrant is an unpressurized pipe incorporated into a pond design that enables a hookup to a fire engine pump. The dry hydrant then becomes a source of water for fighting fires. Additional information on dry hydrants is available at: https://www.nrcs.usda.gov/Internet/FSE_DOCUMENTS/nrcs143_026061.pdf and www2.dnr.cornell.edu/cek7/fish/Pond/farmpond/contents/Wisconsin-dry-hydrants.pdf
Landowners desiring a pond can obtain technical assistance and additional information by contacting the Licking County Soil & Water Conservation District at 740.670.5330.
Several additional resources are available to landowners:
The Ohio Department of Natural Resources, Division of Wildlife publishes Ohio Pond Management Handbook, which can be accessed at:
It contains information on siting and managing a pond, including sections on fish and aquatic vegetation, and troubleshooting existing ponds.
The Ohio Department of Natural Resources, Division of Water Resources hosts information on dams, repairs, permits, and other useful information, and can be accessed at:
The United States Department of Agriculture, Natural Resources Conservation Service publishes Ponds - Planning, Design, Construction and can be accessed at:
It contains information on water needs, preliminary investigations, site surveys, etc. There is an abundant amount of technical information; focus on those sections that are relevant to your questions and don’t get lost in the technical information, graphs, and equations.
Fenders Fish Hatchery, www.fendersfishhatchery.com, started in 1959 and provides various species of fish used for stocking ponds. Author Steve Fender discusses ponds, fish species, pond wildlife, and other subjects related to ponds in his book Pond Management The Common Sense Guide, and is available at their website.
A conservation plan is a tool designed to help you better manage the natural resources on your farm. Our District technician and NRCS conservationist may be able to meet with you to evaluate the soil, water, air, plant and animal resources on your property and offer several alternative practices to address resource concerns. The practices you choose to use are recorded in your conservation plan which includes a schedule for installation. Implementing the conservation plan will help you protect the environment on and off your farm.
A conservation plan includes:
- an aerial photo or diagram of your fields;
- a list of your management decisions;
- the location of and schedule for applying new conservation practices;
- a soil map and soil descriptions;
- information sheets explaining how to carry out your specific management decisions;
- a plan for operation and maintenance of practices, if needed.
Benefits of a Conservation Plan
Following your conservation plan has many benefits:
- You will protect your soil and your farm’s productivity;
- You will help improve quality of the water in your area;
- You will improve your soil’s fertility and manage soil moisture;
- You may attract desirable wildlife by creating nesting sites and winter cover;
- You will protect the productive value of your land for future generations;
- You can more readily comply with environmental regulatory requirements;
- You may be eligible for USDA farm programs.