NORTH WEBSTER — A small group boarded a Wawasee Community School Corp., mini bus for an 18-mile tour of a small portion of the 75,000 acres of farmland making up the headwaters of the Tippecanoe River Watershed. The trip was hosted by The Watershed Foundation for the purpose to show some of the practices in place on farmland in the southern edge of the watershed.
Sam St. Clair, who has worked with the watershed for the past 3 ½ years, provided explanations of the various practices along the trip route. He noted the focus is stopping the pollution at its source instead of cleaning it up downstream, because it is less expensive and more effective.
The tour included Lakeview Farms, Hoffert Farms, EF Rhoades Farms, Dennis Trump property, J.A. Scott Farm, Dr. Gary Dillon, Juillerat Farms, Tom Western Farm, Glenn Western Farm, Ron Dunn Farms, and the Dennis Wolfe Farms. The tour was in the Pierceton, Larwill area.
Highlights were to see the practices of no-till and cover crops, grassy waterways, two-stage ditches, conservation reserve programs, erosion control, tree plantings, restored wetlands, filter strips and methods to keep livestock out of the streams and creeks.
St. Clair explained the Tippy River is one of two main inlets into Tippy Lake, the other is Grassy Creek, both of which the tour crossed. St. Clair talked about the soil health initiative — creating healthy soils for clean water. While a number of farmers have signed on, there are a lot of fields which are not a part of the soil health initiative.
St. Clair noted the continuous no till planting in corn and soybean fields, each year after the row crop is harvested, cover crops are planted. The no-till practices and cover crops prove for continual coverage of the ground, stopping soil erosion.
Stopping at the J.A. Scott Farm, where 250 acres were grown in winter wheat and then seeded with a cocktail mixture of cover crops, the group heard the advantages of cover crop use. St. Claire stated the Scotts have found the soil has improved and the organic matter percentages has increased, holding more nutrients and water. “It’s more of nature’s way,” said St. Clair.
Another stop was at the Dillon property, initially only 20 acres of woods stood on the 100 acre farmland. Now there are 60 acres in a tree plantation, 20 acres of woods, four different shallow water wetlands restored and two big deep water ones: one 8 acres, another 3 acres.
The watershed has more than 50 lakes covering 900 acres. It was noted Ridinger Lake takes the beating when there’s rain as the water level can fluctuate 5 feet. St. Clair stated approximately one-half of the watershed drains into Ridinger Lake, which does not have the volume as Lake Tippecanoe, filtering the water before it reaches Lake Tippecanoe.
TWF has a number of partners including the U.S. Department of Agriculture, U.S. Fish and Wildlife, Indiana Department of Natural Resources, and others who have similar goals.