When rain falls from the sky, where does it go? Does it just stay in the fields or on your front lawn? What’s the impact of moving water off the fields? These are all questions that come to mind when you talk to farmers about the importance of water and the impact it has on the land the health of the soil.

Planting cover crops is one practice that farmers implement to ensure water and soil stay on the field, keeping essential nutrients where they belong.

When it rains, there are three things that can happen to the water when it meets the ground. It can either infiltrate the ground, form a standing body of water or it can run off. The ideal situation that farmers hope occurs is infiltration. Infiltration allows the water to move through the soil and create a healthy soil bed for plants to grow and thrive in. When infiltration does not occur, water washes off from the field and takes the valuable soil and essential nutrients with it.

Farmers don’t want to see run off occurring on their fields just like you don’t want to see water forming streams in your backyard. Buffer strips and cover crops are just two methods that farmers implement to prevent water runoff from occurring. Buffer strips are grassy areas of land, sometimes located in the middle of fields, which are permanent vegetation that help prevent erosion and stop the soil from leaving the field. Cover crops are crops planted in the fall that cover the fields through the winter and prevent the soil from running off from the field during heavy rain fall or snowmelt in the spring, prior to planting.

Check out our video that shows a rainfall simulator and the result of rainfall when infiltration and runoff occur. You’ll notice in this simulation that there are patches of fields that have crops planted on them and patches that are bare ground. This helps you visualize what will happen. Bare ground results in runoff. Green grass or cover crops results in infiltration.

With science and research behind what happens to water during a rain storm, farmers understand what has to happen in their fields. Keeping soil from running off of any field, crop field, soccer field, golf course and even our back yards will ultimately help keep our waterways clean. So at the end of the day, farmers won’t be asking, “where’s the water” because it’s their responsibility as a good steward of the land to ensure the water is infiltrated into the ground for the betterment of the soil and the land we all live on.

Louise Calderwood works for the Northeast Agribusiness and Feed Alliance. For more information about NEAFA, visit their website.