By Brandy Harrison
BELGRAVE Over the last decade, Murray Scott has taken 15 acres out of production to stem the flow of muddy water from his fields during heavy rainfall.
“It used to be when we tile drained we wanted water to get off the land and go someplace else and we didnt care where,” says the semi-retired crop farmer, who, along with his wife Wilma, earned one of nine ministers awards for environmental excellence last month for a series of projects that control nutrient and sediment runoff. “I kind of wish Id started a bit earlier.”
In 2005, the Scotts noticed a municipal drain running across their farm near Belgrave, about 40 kilometres west of Listowel, was plugged with silt from field runoff. Working closely with the Maitland Valley Conservation Authority, they tapped into as much as $500,000 in funding over the next decade.
They built water and sediment control berms and grass waterways near fields that divert water into newly-constructed wetlands or protected outlets, and storm water ponds, which act as a filter, holding water during a heavy rainfall to gradually drain and recharge the aquifer.
The Scotts also imitated a natural channel design for a narrow, deep, zigzagging stream that moves faster and is self-cleaning, tried filters to remove nitrates from tile water, managed their hardwood bush to remove deadfall, and planted windbreaks along field boundaries.
Theyve seen less soil erosion and water is cleaner.
Brook trout populations have increased and there are more sightings of birds, such as the at-risk bobolink. The tree buffer even creates a small heat sink that saw higher yields compared to the open field, says Scott.
The farm is a demonstration site, with between 500 and 600 visitors since 2007.
Now 72, Scott admits that the same overhaul may not be as easy for the younger generation. Their own land, which is now mostly rented out, is ideal, he says.
“If I were 35 years old and deeply in debt, I would probably try to make every cent I could out of every corner of my land,” says Scott, who is focused on a broader goal to increase the landscapes ability to adjust to changing weather patterns. “If we pay attention now and make some improvements like this, we will at least learn to adapt to whatever happens down the road. Somebody has to do it.”