Agriculture

Farms provide us with food and fiber, natural areas and environmental benefits. But agriculture is also the largest source of nutrient and sediment pollution entering the Bay.

FAQ

  • How does farming affect the Chesapeake Bay?

    Agriculture is the single largest source of nutrient and sediment pollution entering the Chesapeake Bay. But well-managed agricultural lands can offer the Bay watershed a number of benefits and services, including restored rivers and streams and valuable insect, bird and animal habitat.

  • How does chicken manure affect the Chesapeake Bay?

    Chicken manure, or poultry litter, is often applied to cropland as a form of fertilizer, providing crops with the nutrients needed to grow. But when more litter is applied to the land than a crop can absorb, or when large amounts of litter are improperly stored, the nutrients and bacteria that litter contains can be carried by runoff into rivers and streams or seep into groundwater supplies.

  • How can farmers lower their fertilizer needs?

    A number of best management practices are designed to lower the amount of fertilizer that a farmer must put on his land: nutrient management plans tell a farmer how and when to apply fertilizer to his crops, thus preventing the over-application of nutrients; cover crops planted in the fall can reduce fertilizer needs in the spring; and rotating grain crops (like corn, wheat and barley) with legumes (like alfalfa, soybeans and clover) can reduce fertilizer needs because the legumes add nitrogen to the soil.

  • What are best management practices?

    Best management practices (or BMPs) are conservation practices that can reduce a farm’s nutrient and sediment pollution while maintaining a productive farming operation. Some common agricultural BMPs include conservation tillage, cover crops, forest buffers, streamside fencing and manure storage areas.

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Terms

  • Agriculture

    The science or practice of farming, including growing crops and raising animals for the production of food, fiber, fuel and other products.

  • Decomposition

    The process by which organic matter breaks down into simpler forms.

  • Erosion

    The disruption or movement of soil by wind, water or ice, occurring naturally or as a result of land use practices.

  • Fertilizer

    A natural substance or chemical added to soil or land to increase its fertility and help plants grow.

  • Nutrients

    Chemicals that plants and animals need to grow and survive but, in excess amounts, can harm aquatic environments. Elevated levels of the nutrients nitrogen and phosphorous are the main cause of poor water quality in the Chesapeake Bay.

  • Pathogen

    A bacterium, virus or other microorganism that can cause disease.

  • Pesticides

    A general term that describes the chemical substances used to destroy or control insect or plant pests. Many pesticides are manufactured and do not occur naturally in the environment. Others are natural toxins that are extracted from plants and animals.

  • Pollution

    The introduction of harmful substances or products into the environment.

  • Reservoir

    A natural or artificial place where water is collected or stored for use, especially water for supplying a community, irrigating land and furnishing power.

  • Sediment

    Loose particles of sand, silt and clay that settle on the bottom of rivers, lakes, estuaries and oceans. Suspended sediment pushed into the water by erosion is one of the biggest impairments to water quality in the Chesapeake Bay.

  • Watershed

    An area of land that drains into a particular river, lake, bay or other body of water. We all live in a watershed: some are large (like the Chesapeake), while others are small (like your local creek, stream or river).

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