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September 2011
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November 2011

Photo of the Week: The Most Important Fish in the Sea

MenhadenPhoto by Justin Benttinen/www.justinbenttinen.com.

Here, Justin Benttinen captures tiny menhaden in an impressionistic sea. In a matter of days, the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC) will meet to discuss the fate of menhaden (AKA the most important fish in the sea). At the end of that meeting, it will adopt an addendum to its menhaden management plan, which will determine new overfishing thresholds and target fishing rates.

Now, more than ever, we need your help. In 32 of the past 54 years, we have overfished menhaden, and its population now stands at its lowest point on record—a mere 8 percent of what it once was!

But, we have an historic opportunity to rebuild the population of this important fish, which represents a critical link in the marine food web of the entire Atlantic coast, especially the Chesapeake Bay. Please write ASMFC today and urge the commission to set new targets that will allow the menhaden population to increase to a point where it can support a fishery and fulfill its vital ecological role. Please submit your letters by 5 p.m. November 2, 2011, in order for them to be considered.

If we don't speak up now, this fish, so critical to the Chesapeake Bay ecosystem and the human community that it supports, could be lost forever.

—Emmy Nicklin

 

Do you have a favorite Bay photo you'd like to submit to the Chesapeake Bay Foundation's Photo of the Week contest? Send them to CBF's E-Communications Manager, Emmy Nicklin, at enicklin [at sign] cbf.org,along with a brief description of where and when you took the photo and what the Chesapeake Bay means to you. Please also join our Chesapeake Bay Foundation's Flickr group and post your pics to our Facebook page. We look forward to seeing your photos!


For Love of Land and Water: Essex County Farmers Practice Effective Conservation, Part Four

  Wheat
Photo by Claus Rebler. 

Just as several members of Congress are drafting a new reduced five-year Farm Bill, which will likely include significant cuts to critical conservation programs, we talked with several Virginia farm families who have learned how important these conservation programs are both for their and their communities’ livelihoods as well as the health of the environment. The following is the final post of a series of blogs from those conversations adapted from an article in the Essex County Countryside Alliance 2011 Report. Read Part One and Part Two of the series. 
 

 

Part 4:

Restoring the Chesapeake’s Health

“This view is my incentive for doing a good job,” said David Taliaferro as he looked out over the broad Rappahannock from a bluff next to his mother’s house. It’s clear that his family, the Baylors, and the Hundleys all share a deep commitment to healthy land and water. Bob and Waring Baylor especially love the Rappahannock’s waterfowl, and they are avid Bay anglers who trailer their 21’ fishboat to launch ramps in search of flounder, trout, rockfish, and croakers. “The way we were going [losing fertilizer and soil], it was going to be a disaster,” Jay Hundley said with some passion. “I want to get it [the Bay and its rivers] back the way it used to be, for myself, my kids, my grandkids.”

Indeed, the EPA Chesapeake Bay Program’s most recent Bay Barometer report (2009) shows that agriculture in the Bay watershed is making important, valuable progress. Farmers have reduced nitrogen pollution by 52 percent of the Bay Program’s goals, phos phorus pollution by 50 percent, and sediment pollution by 50 percent. Those numbers represent very good news, for which everyone who loves the Chesapeake and its rivers should be grateful to the region’s agricultural community. The bad news is that the Bay ecosystem is telling us it needs more pollution reduction from all sources—sewage treatment plants, urban and suburban stormwater and septic systems as well as agriculture. The challenge for those of us who like to eat is how to support the Bay region’s farmers in their efforts to reduce their remaining 50 percent.

In the end, the Baylors, Hundleys, and Taliaferros walk their talk, farming in ways that reflect their love of the Rappahannock and its creeks, as well as their need to keep their operations appropriately profitable over the long term. The Rappahannock River and the Chesapeake Bay have certainly benefitted from their conservation practices. The question for them and the Chesapeake Bay conservation community at large is how to encourage other farmers to love their land and water the same way.

John Page Williams


In a matter of days, several members of Congress will pass along recommendations to the “Super Committee” for a new reduced five-year Farm Bill, which will likely include significant cuts to critical conservation programs. Please help us prevent this from happening. Protecting this funding in the Farm Bill means not only an opportunity for cleaner streams and healthier rivers throughout the Bay watershed, but stronger economies and a growing workforce as well. Please act today for a chance to save this critical funding for clean water in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed.



For Love of Land and Water: Essex County Farmers Practice Effective Conservation, Part Three

FarmJay Hundley scouts a growing soybean crop on Cloverfield Farm. Photo by John Page Williams/CBF Staff.

Just as several members of Congress are drafting a new reduced five-year Farm Bill, which will likely include significant cuts to critical conservation programs, we talked with several Virginia farm families who have learned how important these conservation programs are both for their and their communities’ livelihoods as well as the health of the environment. The following is the third of a series of blogs from those conversations adapted from an article in the Essex County Countryside Alliance 2011 Report. Stay tuned for the fourth and final part tomorrow. Read Part One and Part Two. 

Part 3:

Precision Conservation Tillage

The Baylors, the Hundleys and the Taliaferros all practice conservation tillage with regis­tered nutrient management plans (NMPs). Port Tobacco, Clover Field, Montague and the waters to which they drain all benefit from no-till planting and crop manage­ment. For corn, all three operations incorporate split application of nitrogen, so the plants use it as efficiently as possible. The working rule is to inject the first third of the amount recommended by a nutrient management plan into the soil at planting time, then side-dress-inject the balance when the tassels begin to form. Injecting nitrogen into the soil has proven to be much more efficient than spraying or dribbling it.

Thus these farmers can reduce this increasingly expensive input, making their operations more profitable. Such efficiency is part of a recurring pattern: practices that improve net income tend to benefit both soils and waterways. Jay Hundley puts it well: “The more economical I get, the more environmentally sound my farm becomes.”

David Taliaferro has a suggestion for the nutrient management plan­ning process, though. He believes it is just as important to retain the nitrogen that remains in the soil after the crop is harvested as it is to prescribe application rates. The conventional recommended rate for corn is one pound of nitrogen per acre for each projected bushel of yield (about 150 bushels per acre at Montague). The problem comes in a year like 2010, when the yield crashed to 50 bushels because of spotty rainfall, leaving about 100 pounds of excess nitrogen on each acre. How to keep that precious, expensive nitrogen where it belongs? A thick cover crop would help. “Of all of our inputs, nitrogen is the most expensive now.

Don’t put it in there and lose it,” David said.

Jay Hundley may have one answer to the issue of nitrogen inputs. For some years, he has volunteered to run test plots for Extension. “That’s one of the best ways I learn,” he said when we talked. “You can learn from talking with these people. Test plots teach us so much.” (Endlessly curious, Jay also confesses that “I live and breathe farming. I just love it.”) This time, he is participating in a USDA Conservation Innovation Grant partnership with Virginia Cooperative Extension, the Three Rivers Soil & Water Conservation District, and the Colonial Soil & Water Conservation District.

The grant allows the partners to compare performance of two technologies designed to maximize the amount of nitrogen delivered to the crop while minimizing losses to the environment. The experiment will compare a nitrogen injection system that Jay already uses with a sensor-based, variable-rate nitrogen application system known as GreenSeeker™.

The GreenSeeker™ delivers nitrogen to the soil surface at vari­able rates based on sensor feedback that detects how much the growing crop actually needs and adjusts the fertilizer rate accordingly. This system provides a precise application rate that takes into account the fact that yields typically vary across a given field. On average, the GreenSeeker™ reduces nitrogen application to corn by 21 pounds per acre in Virginia. On the other hand, nitrogen injection systems place fertilizer right at the root zone where growing crops can access it quickly, preventing nitrogen fertil­izer from washing off when it rains or volatilizing into the air.

Jay and his project partners want to know which system does a better job of conserving nitrogen. This year he has run a few preliminary plots basing fertilizer injection rates on soil types in his fields, with promising results. The grant project begins in 2012 and will run through 2013.

Evaluating these new precision nitrogen application technolo­gies fits right into Clover Field’s operation. The Hundleys already grid their fields—some 500 of them—into two-to-eight-acre sections according to soil type and annual yield patterns from the GPS-based monitors in their combines. They send out hundreds of location-referenced soil and plant tissue samples each year and their crop scout walks all of those fields regularly during the growing season, so they always have detailed, timely information to inform their nitrogen application decisions. That information also serves as the base for the extensive planning they do each winter to, as Jay puts it, “make our operation the best it can be.”

“Farmers who don’t pay such close attention to the cost of inputs like nitrogen may not have a long future because of economics,” Jay suggested. “You have to be willing to spend a dollar now to get two back later on. Agricultural tech­nology is giving us some very good tools to improve profitability and protect land and water at the same time. We need to take advantage of them.” His comment underscores the need to educate the public about valuable farming practices that protect and enhance water quality. It’s no surprise to find that the Taliaferros are also considering adding the GreenSeeker™ system to Montague Farms.

John Page Williams 

 

Stay tuned tomorrow for more on how these Virginia farm families have successfully incorporated strong conservation efforts—such as planting stream buffers and fencing cattle—into their farming practices. Read Part One and Part Two.

In a matter of days, several members of Congress will pass along recommendations to the “Super Committee” for a new reduced five-year Farm Bill, which will likely include significant cuts to critical conservation programs. Please help us prevent this from happening. Protecting this funding in the Farm Bill means not only an opportunity for cleaner streams and healthier rivers throughout the Bay watershed, but stronger economies and a growing workforce as well. Please act today for a chance to save this critical funding for clean water in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed.



For Love of Land and Water: Essex County Farmers Practice Effective Conservation, Part Two

ArielViewFarmGreenfield Farm. Photo by Brenda Gladding.

Just as several members of Congress are drafting a new reduced five-year Farm Bill, which will likely include significant cuts to critical conservation programs, we talked with several Virginia farm families who have learned how important these conservation programs are both for their and their communities’ livelihoods as well as the health of the environment. The following is the second of a series of blogs from those conversations adapted from an article in the
Essex County Countryside Alliance 2011 Report. Stay tuned for Part Three tomorrow. View Part One here.

Part 2:

Restoring the Great Green Filter

There’s an old saying that over the past 400 years, we humans have converted much of the Chesapeake watershed from “The Great Green Filter” (virgin forest that caught and filtered rainfall on 95 percent of those 64,000 square miles) to “A Greasy Gray Funnel” of roadways, parking lots, and rooftops that concentrate stormwater and send it flowing directly to Bay tributaries with little or no treatment. When practiced with conservation in mind, though, farming can serve as a surrogate Green Filter.

One of the very best techniques for protecting waterways like the Rappahannock’s network of high-value tidal creeks is planting buffers along field edges, especially where the soils are highly erodible. Twenty years ago, Bob Baylor enrolled a number of Port Tobacco’s buffer areas in the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). He has just renewed the contracts for another ten years.

Bob does not, however, depend entirely on government cost-share funds. He has actually gone above and beyond the minimum, installing beautiful warm season grass buffers up to 100-feet wide. They are sown with weeping lovegrass (Eragrostis curvula) and switchgrass (Panicum virgatum). He also sows cover crops to protect his soils in the winter and soak up excess nitrogen and phosphorus left after crop harvests.

Jay Hundley crystallized “above and beyond the minimum” with the remark, “It just seemed like the right thing to do.” He was referring to fencing Clover Field’s few head of beef cattle away from the shores of the farm’s 32-acre pond that drains to Farmers Hall Creek. Jay might be accused of an ulterior motive there—he loves to fish for the big largemouth bass that live in that pond—but he simply cares about keeping the pond ecosystem healthy. His family’s stewardship of the pond also shows in the healthy tidal freshwater marshes full of wild rice just below the pond’s dam. Marshes like that one make this part of the Rappahannock a magnet for waterfowl each winter.

As with Port Tobacco, the land farmed by Clover Field Enterprises includes a number of grass water­ways and buffers, though the latter are not as wide as Port Tobacco’s broad swaths. The Hundleys plant cover crops and accept cost share funds for some of them, but some government programs do not make sense for their operations. “I don’t care whose money you’re spending, you’d better spend it wisely,” Jay remarked in a recent, wide-ranging conversation. He knows that cost-share funds are scarce and wants them spent as efficiently as possible, even if it means they go to other farmers and he plants buffers and cover crops without them.

The 1985 Farm Bill emphasized cost-shared planting of grass water­ways and buffers, laid out around a whole-farm conservation plan. David, Bill, and Bryan Taliaferro rented a no-till drill and sowed warm-season grasses on 31 acres of their operation. David says that at first, he resented taking that much land out of production, but over time, he began to see how much these practices helped to retain soil. On a recent tour of Montague Farms, he showed off several grass waterways built on highly erodible soils in hilly fields. “We located and shaped the waterways broadly so they’ll hold water and retain soil,” he explained. He maintains them carefully now. Preserving soil fertility has become one of his key farming goals.

John Page Williams

 

Stay tuned tomorrow for more on how these Virginia farm families have successfully incorporated strong conservation efforts—such as planting stream buffers and fencing cattle—into their farming practices. Read Part One.

In a matter of days, several members of Congress will pass along recommendations to the “Super Committee” for a new reduced five-year Farm Bill, which will likely include significant cuts to critical conservation programs. Please help us prevent this from happening. Protecting this funding in the Farm Bill means not only an opportunity for cleaner streams and healthier rivers throughout the Bay watershed, but stronger economies and a growing workforce as well. Please act today for a chance to save this critical funding for clean water in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed.


For Love of Land and Water: Essex County Farmers Practice Effective Conservation, Part One

  RiversFarmsAn ariel view of Cloverfield Farm. Photo by Brenda Gladding.

Just as several members of Congress are drafting a new reduced five-year Farm Bill, which will likely include significant cuts to critical conservation programs, we talked with several Virginia farm families who have learned how important these conservation programs are both for their and their communities’ livelihoods as well as the health of the environment. The following is the first of a series of blogs from those conversations adapted from an article in the Essex County Countryside Alliance 2011 Report. Stay tuned for Part Two tomorrow.  

Part One:

Some people have farming in their genes. Bob Baylor’s family has been working Port Tobacco Farm since the 17th century. Jay Hundley comes from a multi-generation farming family near Center Cross. Now he, his father, and one brother work their Upper Essex farm, Clover Field, on Farmer’s Hall Creek, plus rented land in Essex, Caroline, and King George Counties. David Taliaferro went to college and graduate school but returned to Montague Farms, where he had grown up between the Rappahannock and Dragon Swamp (Piankatank watershed) in Lower Essex, to farm with his brothers, Bill and Bryan, plus his son and nephew.

All three of these operations focus on soybeans, corn, and small grains, but they are strikingly different. Bob Baylor sells his crops to Perdue and Old Dominion Grain for poultry and livestock feed. The Hundleys raise seed that they sell through another brother’s Hundley Seed Company in Chance, near Occupacia Creek. Over the past 25 years, the Taliaferros have developed highly successful edible soybean markets for natto, tofu, sprouts, soy sauce, and similar products in Japan and other Asian countries. They also raise corn, barley, and wheat. But the one factor all three farmers have in common is a thoughtful, whole-farm approach that successfully blends profitability with strong conservation measures which work together to protect and enhance land and water resources.

Long-Term Protection

One valuable tool for these farmers has been placing conserva­tion easements on parts of their lands. Bob Baylor, for example, has placed all of Port Tobacco under a conservation easement with the Virginia Outdoors Foundation and The Nature Conservancy, ensuring that the land will remain in agricul­ture in perpetuity. His son, Waring, is already farming part-time with his father while he studies at Virginia Tech. Bob manages Port Tobacco’s 600 acres of woodland under a forestry management plan with Essex County.

Likewise the Hundleys have placed easements on Clover Field. For the Taliaferros, easements are part of the family’s long-term strategic thinking for Montague Farms, and they will be key factors in estate planning. Bob, Jay, and David believe in easements enough that they serve on the Board of Directors of the Essex County Countryside Alliance. The Alliance helps local landowners conserve their farm and forest lands by educating them about the conservation value of ease­ments with organizations like the Middle Peninsula Land Trust and the Virginia Outdoors Foundation. The Alliance also highlights easements as valuable tools in estate planning. In only a few years, ECCA has assisted a significant number of Essex farm families in protecting thousands of acres from development in the Rappahannock watershed ....

John Page Williams

Stay tuned tomorrow for more on how these Virginia farm families have successfully incorporated strong conservation efforts—such as planting stream buffers and fencing cattle—into their farming practices.

In a matter of days, several members of Congress will pass along recommendations to the “Super Committee” for a new reduced five-year Farm Bill, which will likely include significant cuts to critical conservation programs. Please help us prevent this from happening. Protecting this funding in the Farm Bill means not only an opportunity for cleaner streams and healthier rivers throughout the Bay watershed, but stronger economies and a growing workforce as well. Please act today for a chance to save this critical funding for clean water in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed. 


Photo of the Week: Dreams of Summer

Low_tide_dreamsPhoto by Ally Cassorla.

"I live only a block away from the Chesapeake Bay, between the Lesner Bridge and the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel in Virginia Beach. It is a gem of a location which I enjoy each day with long walks on the beach. I have been taking a series of photos over the past year of water, sky, sea life, and people that I see on these walks.

I am so lucky to enjoy the beauty and camaraderie of living so close to this living, breathing estuary . . . I am very protective of OUR Bay and speak out about conservation as often as someone will listen." 

—Ally Cassorla (as told to Emmy Nicklin)


Do you have a favorite Bay photo you'd like to submit to the Chesapeake Bay Foundation's Photo of the Week contest? Send them to CBF's E-Communications Manager, Emmy Nicklin, at enicklin [at sign] cbf.org,along with a brief description of where and when you took the photo and what the Chesapeake Bay means to you. Please also join our Chesapeake Bay Foundation's Flickr group and post your pics to our Facebook page. We look forward to seeing your photos!


Notes from the Field: October is National Kill Tall Fescue Month

The following appeared on field conservationist Bobby Whitescarver's blog, blog.gettingmoreontheground.com. For more information, please visit his website

Progression of fescue to native prairieThe 12-month progression from invasive Tall Fescue to native prairie (starting from top left and moving clockwise). Photos by Bobby Whitescarver.

October is a good time to kill Tall Fescue. I like killing Tall Fescue because it is perhaps the most invasive non-native plant in North America. In my opinion it is more invasive than Purple loosestrife and Phragmites, yet why don’t we hear more about it? Not only is Tall Fescue invasive, but it is also toxic! 

We used a glyphosate product last week to start killing a pasture that is predominately Tall Fescue. We are doing this in preparation to replace the Tall Fescue with native warm season grasses next spring. When the new grasses get established, we will use them for pasture during the hot summer months of July and August when the rest of our cool season grass pastures on the farm usually go dormant. 

Research shows that killing Fescue in the fall results in only 20 percent of it coming back; whereas if you kill it in the spring, 60 percent of it will come back. We plan to spray again next spring just prior to planting the native grasses.

I also spray around the trees we planted several years ago because the Fescue is allelopathic to newly planted trees. That means the Fescue gives off a toxin that inhibits the growth of new seedlings. If you want to plant trees into a Fescue sod, you should kill the Fescue first.

Because of Fescue’s growth habit, it harbors mice and voles. Mice and voles eat tree seedlings. Mice and voles also attract hawks. Hawks kill quail. Introducing Fescue into our natural system here didn't work out very well.

—Bobby Whitescarver  

Whitescarver is a recently retired USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) conservationist who spent more than 30 years working with farmers on conservation practices. He now has his own private consulting business where he helps landowners create an overall vision and plan for their land. He also works with CBF to help famers install more Best Managment Practices (BMPs) in the Shenandoah Valley. He is the recipient of a CBF Conservationist of the Year award. For more information, visit his website

 

FinalProductThe resulting native prairie. Photo by Bobby Whitescarver.

Running for the Bay

IMG_5025Photo courtesy of Katie Spaeth.

My name is Katie Spaeth, and I'm a junior at Yorktown High School in Arlington County, Virginia. My first experience with the Chesapeake Bay Foundation was a two-day overnight trip in seventh grade, where we stayed at the Smith Island Education Center. On this trip, I learned about the environment through boating expeditions, hiking through marshes, and staying in an education center in a small town right on the Bay.

The isolated, outdoor aspect of this trip, where we learned about the environment through hands-on activities, was a very different and exciting experience for me, a native of a suburban town outside of D.C. Since then, I have attended three one-week Student Leadership Programs with CBF, and each was an amazing experience. Every trip required completing an action project, which included taking a leadership role in our communities and executing a project, which would raise awareness and positively impact the Bay.

After this past summer's Leadership Program, I decided I wanted to organize a 5K in my community, in which all proceeds would go toward supporting CBF's Student Leadership Programs. Having been an avid runner on my high school's cross-country team since eighth grade, the idea of incorporating my passion for running with my desire to help raise awareness about the Chesapeake Bay was incredibly appealing.

Organizing the event was a lot of work. I had never before created such a big project on my own. I had to call lots of people in the county to request an area for the run; create T-shirts; map out the course; and send out donation/participation forms. In the end, 36 people showed up on a cold and rainy Sunday morning to run, all adorned in matching "Arlington Run for the Bay 5K" T-shirts. 

The whole event was a great success, and I raised $775 dollars for the Student Leadership Program at CBF! I'm proud of all my efforts, and I'm thankful to all my friends and family who helped me organize the project along the way. Most importantly, I hope the money raised will go towards supporting this great CBF program. It has taught me incredible leadership skills, the importance of community service, and introduced me to inspirational adults and students throughout the Chesapeake watershed who are working to save the Bay.

 Katie Spaeth

Interested in raising money for CBF in creative ways? Become a BayRaiser! From weddings and other special events to races and remembering a loved one, you can use BayRaiser to raise money for CBF's restoration work. Learn more.

5K Group

 


Photo of the Week: Lake Amtoco

ByDixieHogganPhoto by Dixie Hoggan/CBF member.

Virginian and CBF member Dixie Hoggan captures a quiet, early morning moment along Lake Amtoco at the headwaters of the Little Nottoway River in Nottoway County. "The lake and surrounding property was purchased by my dad in the mid-'30s. I grew up here swimming in this lake and searching for arrowheads," Hoggan says.

Emmy Nicklin


Do you have a favorite Bay photo you'd like to submit to the Chesapeake Bay Foundation's Photo of the Week contest? Send them to CBF's E-Communications Manager, Emmy Nicklin, at enicklin [at sign] cbf.org,along with a brief description of where and when you took the photo and what the Chesapeake Bay means to you. Please also join our Chesapeake Bay Foundation's Flickr group and post your pics to our Facebook page. We look forward to seeing your photos!



Chesapeake News and Dos

Filling you in on the top stories of the week and letting you know how to make a difference!

  DSC_0443Photo by Emmy Nicklin/CBF Staff.

This week in the Watershed:  oyster success, pollution diets (TMDLs), and a schooner race

 

Upcoming Volunteer Opportunities for the Bay

October 14

  • Learn more about the Chesapeake Bay “pollution diet,” or TMDL, and how it will affect Maryland. The Smithsonian Environmental Research Center (SERC) in Edgewater, MD, will host a forum from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. to share information and discuss this important step in Saving the Bay. Contact Richard Romer (racebeat@aol.com, 410/257-6947) for more information. 

October 15

October 17

  • Voice your concerns over the management of the menhaden fishery at a public meeting in Heathsville, VA, at Northumberland High School. Help rebuild the population of this essential fish!
  • Join Congressman John Sarbanes in Baltimore at the Frederick Douglass-Isaac Myers Maritime Park at 1:30 pm to discuss his efforts to fight back against environmental deregulation and protect the Chesapeake Bay. If you’d like to attend, email brianne.Nadeau@mail.house.gov.

October 18

October 20

  • Plant native trees and shrubs in beautiful Jefferson County, WV, near Charles Town.  Five-hundred trees will be planted along Bullskin Run on Cool Spring Farm. 

October 22

Ongoing

 

Adam Wickline

 

If you have an upcoming Bay-related restoration event and you need volunteers, please let us know by contacting CBF’s Community Building Manager, Adam Wickline: awickline@cbf.org. Do you enjoy working with fellow Bay Lovers to help save the Chesapeake? Become a CBF Volunteer to receive notifications about upcoming volunteer opportunities.