David Bradway - Conservation Administrator
I had a great conversation about natural corridors the other day with a local engineer. This conversation got me thinking about how conservation affects our everyday lives. As I’m sure many have noticed, lately there have been a lot of roadkill deer in the ditches and roadsides on my commute not to mention opossums, raccoons, and squirrels. Through development, our intrusion into their space causes wildlife to venture into places dangerous for animals and drivers causing interactions that are often detrimental to the survival of the animal and sometimes to the human as well. Taking these interactions into account when planning and developing land uses can reduce the frequency of these human/animal interactions.
Natural corridors can easily be added to development plans and masterplans. These corridors can serve as pathways for animal movement that keep them away from motorways. These corridors can also be used by people for recreation, meditation, a break from urban areas, and, possibly, alternatives to normal automobile commutes. One great example of this is the Potter’s Bridge Trail. To reduce commute congestion and greenhouse gas emissions from vehicles, commuters could drive to the trailhead and walk, run, or ride to their destination in Noblesville, Westfield, Carmel and beyond. Commuters may even see animals along their way that are drawn to these corridors.
Looking ahead at further development in the county, these types of corridors could be planned into developments to link green spaces together as a natural highway for humans and animals. This could lead to fewer high-speed interactions with animals and fewer frightened commuters. Interactions in these natural corridors would be far less dangerous than auto/animal interactions on the road.
Another great example of a natural corridor are the wildlife overpasses over the Trans-Canada Highway in Banff National Park in Canada’s Alberta Province. What look like normal overpasses from the road are, from above, a natural passageway for wildlife to safely cross the highway. These passageways are planted with pine trees and wildflowers and lined with fences to keep animals in the natural area and out of danger. Along with fencing-in the stretches of highway in these areas, these corridors have reduced mortality rates by 50% in some species of large carnivores and up to 100% in species such as Elk. These corridors are used by more species than experts expected from small to large mammals and even snakes and toads. Experts have even seen increased genetic diversity in grizzly bears because the corridor allows the bears to cross the highway. More great info from this decades old conservation project can be found here.
Are you interested in conservation projects? Do you have land you want to ensure stays natural? The Hamilton County SWCD offers conservation programs for landowners to ensure land can stay natural and animals will have safe areas to inhabit and move around the landscape without putting themselves and others in danger. Call or stop in to inquire!
Indiana NRCS Encourages Farmers to Start Environmental Quality Incentives Program Application Process Early
Angie Garrison - NRCS District Conservationist
Hamilton / Tipton County agricultural producers who want to improve natural resources and address concerns on their land are encouraged to sign up early for the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) through the USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). While the application deadline is not currently set, Kerry Smith, NRCS District Conservationist, says the application deadline is usually mid to late December.
“We take EQIP applications throughout the year, those not submitted by deadlines are deferred for future consideration. I encourage producers with resource concerns on their land to contact our office as soon as possible to get the process started, ensuring your application is submitted in a timely manner,” Smith said.
EQIP is a voluntary conservation program available for agricultural producers. Through EQIP, NRCS provides financial and technical assistance to install conservation practices that reduce soil erosion and sedimentation, improve soil health, improve water and air quality, and create wildlife habitat.
Many applicants are interested in using funds to address soil erosion and water quality issues on their land. However, funds are also available for pasture and grazing land, confined livestock operations, organic producers, drainage water management, invasive plant control and wildlife habitat improvement.
Producers interested in EQIP are encouraged to contact your local NRCS field office to start the conservation planning and application process early. Hamilton county producers can contact Angie Garrison, NRCS District Conservationist, at (765) 482-6355, extension 3. Participants in EQIP must meet eligibility requirements. NRCS staff will work with producers to determine eligibility and complete the necessary worksheets and rankings for the applicant to compete for funding.
My name is Dave Bradway. I follow Ginger Davis as the new Conservation Administrator for the SWCD. I went to Ball State University where I graduated with a degree in environmental management. I focused in several areas in college: water resources, energy, chemistry and German language. I have worked in the public sector for one of the country’s oldest wastewater pretreatment organizations supervising sampling of industries, storm water and surface water and in the private sector as the environmental manager for a large paper recycling company. I am also the president of a local mountain bike advocacy organization.
When I think about conservation, I consider both the bigger picture of conservation on a broad scale and a local level. How is what I am doing at home affecting the county, state, region, etc.? I think about the miles I drive to work and wonder what difference it would make if I rode my bicycle to commute once or a few times per week. If I remove invasive species on my property and explain why to my neighbors, will this affect the overall program of invasive removal? Where is the water that is running off my roof, gutters, and property ending up, and how can I conserve this water to help ensure the water quality of ponds and streams around me?
The answer to all these questions lies in the fact that the decisions we make influence the world around us. If I ride my bike, that is less gas I burn and less traffic for someone else on their commute. If I talk to my neighbor, they may remove invasive species and plant native species in their yard because of our conversation. If I collect some or all my runoff in a rain barrel or rain garden, it will sequester any contaminants from entering larger and larger waterbodies.
Conservation to me means taking approaches to the environment around us that maintain or improve its sustainability; the idea that we should leave the environment the way we found it or better. The reality is not as easy as the idea. Our commutes might be too far to ride or we may not know how to identify invasive species, but the first step towards conservation is the consideration of our effects.
What does conservation mean to you? Email your response or additional questions to email@example.com.
Diane Turner - Conservation Technician & Outreach Assistant
In July 2021, a population of spotted lanternfly (Lycorma delicatula) was identified in Switzerland County, Indiana near the Ohio River. DEPP and USDA are conducting surveys to ascertain the extent and source of the infestation as well as determine what management strategies will be implemented.
Spotted lanternfly is a major pest of concern across most of the United States. This insect is native to China and parts of India, Vietnam, Japan and Taiwan. It was first identified as an invasive species in 2004 in South Korea and is now a major pest there. Spotted lanternfly was first detected in the United States in Pennsylvania in 2014.
This insect is a planthopper with a distinctive wing pattern. Wings are held downward and folded when the insect is at rest. The forewings, which are visible in the resting position, are greyish with black spots and the wing tips show a network of veins. Part of the hind wings is red with black spots and the remainder is white and black. Adults are approximately one inch long from the head to the end of the folded wings. The abdomen is yellowish with black bands. Adults may not be seen flying (as they are weak flyers) but will likely be seen hopping or crawling.
Mark McCauley, Resource Conservationist
The Indiana State Department of Agriculture (ISDA), The Nature Conservancy and partners throughout the state have worked with the USDA Risk Management Agency (RMA) to establish an initiative in the West Fork Upper White River watershed counties to increase cover crop usage in Indiana. Our focus for this program is to target first time cover crop users in an effort to expand awareness and the adoption of cover crops as a tool to improve farm resiliency.
This program is providing a $5/acre crop insurance premium discount for farmers who employ a cover crop on insured acres in the Upper White River watershed. We will be promoting year round to raise awareness and give farmers time to plan for a cover crop in the Fall. More detailed info on how to apply and FAQs can be found at the button below.
Kris Gertz, Office Coordinator
The judging for the 7th Annual Hamilton County SWCD Photo Contest is complete. Thank you to all are photographers, judges, and social media judges. This year’s judges Micheal Jack, Hamilton County resident and talented photographer, Emily Archer, Graduate Art student, and our Soil & Water Conservation District Board Member, Amanda Egler selected winners from many beautiful entries! Winners in the Nature’s Renewal contest were Steven Gass, adult and Ben Boyce, youth.
New this Year is the People’s Choice Award. Winners were chosen on our Social media platforms. The winners were Tristen Defoe, adult and youth winner Ben Boyce.
All photos submitted are available to view on the Hamilton County SWCD website by clicking here.
Mulching with Organic Materials in the Small Community Garden: A View into How GrowLocal Urban Gardens Network Mulches
Even if not considered the most exciting part of gardening, mulching can be a simple source of many benefits. Some benefits of mulching are weed suppression, soil moisture retention, increased soil organic matter, temperature regulation, erosion reduction, decreased soil compaction, and the improvement of a garden's appearance, among others. Mulch supports the soil health principle of keeping the ground covered and is commonly defined as any plant or suitable material applied to the land surface. In other words, almost any material used to cover the ground could be considered a mulch, and could be synthetic or organic. There is often interest in organic mulches since these materials are frequently available on the farm. Plant residues, leaves, grass clippings, and newspapers can be recycled and used as mulch. Straw and hay can be purchased or otherwise sourced to use as mulch. These materials can also be left on the ground at the end of the growing season. In addition, since organic mulches are in close contact with the soil, they can also help increase soil organic matter (as they break down) and serve as a source of carbon and nitrogen that impact the soil's nutrient availability.
There are a myriad of ways in which gardeners use organic material mulches. Typically, if transplanting, mulch is placed on the growing bed before, and if directly seeded, the mulch is added when the crop plant is well established. Some growers plant cover crops that winterkill (e.g. oats), and then space is made between the crop residue to direct seed in the spring. However, there are ways to incorporate mulches without long-term planning. For example, plant residues can be laid on walkways to reduce soil compaction, and tree leaves placed on top of beds (preferably composted). Another way of mulching is to put down newspaper on top of the soil before adding straw mulch. This method helps increase weed suppression. These are a few examples, and if you have doubts or questions about a specific material, reach out to your local Soil and Water Conservation District office.
How GrowLocal Urban Gardens Network Mulches
GrowLocal Urban Gardens Network –a garden network in the greater Lafayette, Indiana area– uses two different mulches at a couple of their gardens. One of the growers and garden managers, Harry Smith, uses wheat straw and wood chips donated from various sources. Harry applies wheat straw for annual crops and wood chips for permanent walkways and perennials, including fruits, trees, bushes, nuts, and berries. For Harry, the benefits of mulching go beyond the before mentioned (e.g., weed suppression, moisture retention…). Harry said: "Most of our lots were developed with buildings at some point in their history. The result is soil containing many urban artifacts: rock, brick, concrete, metal, and even asphalt. These solid materials at or near the surface absorb and hold heat, accelerating soil surface moisture loss and increasing the need for irrigation. Mulching puts these solid materials in the shade and keeps them cool." He described this process as "Making peace with the rocks."
IASWCD Urban Soil Health Program Website
NRCS - Mulching Tip Sheet
Missouri Botanical Garden - Mulching Publication
Marion County SWCD - Mulching Publication
Article written by Marian M. Rodriguez-Soto, Regional Urban Soil Health Specialist for the Urban Soil Health Program-a contribution agreement between NRCS and IASWCD.
Considering removing invasive bushes and trees in your yard? Congrats! You’re taking a major step in the control of invasive species not only in your yard, but across the entire state. These species not only produce small offspring plants that pop up in your home gardens, but also are distributed far and wide when birds eat the berries and carry them away. If your plant has berries or seeds, it is spreading into our natural areas. By removing these species from your yard, you are not only protecting you and your neighbor’s properties, but also helping to preserve beautiful parks and public lands.
The bushes and trees listed below were very commonly sold as landscaping plants up until April of 2019 when the Terrestrial Plant Rule came into effect—aside from callery pear and burning bush which are excluded from the rule and still used in landscaping. If you aren’t sure if these plants are in your home landscaping, you can use a plant ID app and the links below. Disclaimer: These apps aren’t always 100% accurate. If you have questions about plant ID, please reach out to our office.
This article won't go into detail about how to identify these plants. For more information, visit the links below or reach out to our office with questions.
If you will not be removing all the plants in one year, it's best to consider the prioritization of each species. The order in which you treat these plants largely depends on each individual situation. In some cases, it may be best to get rid of the plants that are producing the most seeds. This way, you are slowing the spread of these species and potentially saving yourself some hard work in the future. Alternatively, it may make sense to remove several small species while they are still easy to remove to avoid hard labor after they grow larger. Ultimately this decision is up to the landowner.
When these bushes and trees are small, they can sometimes be removed by hand pulling or utilizing a puller bar. While doing this, it is important to remove the entire root of the plant. Puller bars, and other tools are available through our tool loan program.
Herbicide treatment, specifically cut stump treatment, is an efficient way to remove larger bushes and trees that cannot be hand pulled. When you remove a lot of large bushes by hand in a small area, you can cause soil disturbance. Not only can this cause erosion and soil quality issues, but it also can stimulate seed growth of any seeds in the seedbank--including invasives. Specific Cut stump treatment is done by cutting the bush/tree down so there is only an inch of trunk above the soil. Then the stump can be dabbed or brushed with herbicide, in this case, glyphosate. This information, as well as herbicide percentages can be found on the SICIM Calendar of Control.
Diversity of plants is key when you want to have healthier soil, protect water resources, provide habitat and food for native wildlife and pollinators, and have a more colorful natural area. This year we will have several native shrubs and trees that could make great replacements for these species through our annual tree sale.
Other options are included below, and can be www.hcinvasives.org/alternatives.html found on the Hamilton County Invasives Partnership website.
Diane Turner - Conservation Technician & Outreach Assistant
Are you curious to see how your soil test results stack up against others within Hamilton County, or even other residents across Indiana? We are excited to share our year-end-report from all submitted tests from 2020. Look below to learn more about averages found in the completed tests for the last year.
Summaries provided by A&L Great Lakes Laboratories.
Mark McCauley - Resource Conservationist
It’s that time of year again, when many landowners begin to think about their lawns, vegetable and flower gardens, trees, and even things like wildlife forage plots and livestock pasture. But there is one thing that is common to all of these, and that is the Soil! The condition of your soil can affect the quality and feasibility of all the above, and there is a way you can check on certain aspects of your soil, such as fertility levels, organic matter content, pH level, etc.
Our Soil and Water office provides a soil testing service to assist landowners in taking a closer look at their soil. Along with your test results will come a report, indicating the current levels of various elements, pH, organic matter, but also recommendations of what soil amendments to apply, how much, and when! We will also follow up with personal questions specific to your site, if you have them.
We have two levels of testing you can request: Basic or Complete, and the majority of our customers select the basic.
Basic Test - $35
Analysis includes organic matter, phosphorus, potassium, calcium, magnesium, CEC, pH, and buffer pH.
Complete Test- $45
Analysis includes Basic Test plus conductivity, boron, copper, iron, manganese, sulfur and zinc.
Onsite Service - $50
If you would like the SWCD to take the samples onsite for you (up to a max. of 5), an additional $70 service fee will apply.
For more detailed information on how to take a test, options, etc. see our web site. You may also fill out the online form through our website and make sample drop-off a breeze.
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