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Farm couple seeks new way to save soil

Farmers still seek new ways to protect their land from conservation threats. One farm family from Kansas, Ohio, is talking the search seriously. Dwight and Lisa Clary have developed a completely new way to improve drainage for agriculture.

The couple developed the Clary In-stream Sediment Collector. The structure, installed across the bottom of a stream, is a concrete well with steel grating over the top. It’s about 2 feet deep, 10 feet wide and 20 feet long. As water flows over the collector, sediments fall into the well.

Key Points

Farm couple spends 11 years bird-dogging a new way to trap sediment.

Sponsors and volunteers helped them build collectors on their farm.

Sediment removed from the collectors will be spread back on fields.

The Clarys first got the idea about 11 years ago. They tried to work with soil and water departments, but their county didn’t have any programs to help. So they decided to do it on their own, applying for grants through the Sandusky River Watershed Coalition.

Learning process

As part of the grant process, they needed a dollar value associated with donated materials, money or labor for every dollar of grant money they received. They fell just short of getting the grant. Then they decided to build it through community sponsorship.

“We didn’t get the grant, but individuals, the community and companies such as Beck’s Hybrids believe in our idea and graciously decided to support our passion,” Dwight says.

They were finally able to construct two of these sediment collectors in their streams in August of 2010.

“Finding the funding was what took the longest,” Lisa explains. “But we couldn’t have done it without the community support we received.”

Now that the collectors are installed, the next step is to evaluate performance. During the first seven months after construction, there was a lack of flow to the stream. But once the water came, it only took five months to fill up both collectors.

Large watershed

“There’s about 4,000 acres of farmland upstream from that site, which gives you a perspective of what the potential is,” Dwight says. “A retired Natural Resources Conservation Service employee volunteered his time and said he expected us to collect 200 to 300 tons of soil per year from this one site alone.”

When they empty collectors, they’ll pile the dirt, let it drain, and then take soil samples. They’ll later reapply the soil to their fields, and share the data with everyone.

Recently, they held an appreciation day for sponsors and volunteers. They plan to hold more educational field days, focus on research and promote the collector beyond the point of one structure.

They think it will appeal to a wide audience if they can get people to the site. The Clarys hope that over the next 10 years, the idea will continue to spread.

“My goal is that I would like to see these collectors become part of the [continuous] Conservation Reserve Program with cost-sharing,” Dwight says. “We also hope farmers will be proactive and install this system on their farm.”

The Clarys won’t profit from this idea. “I only asked that the collector be named after us, and that the first one be built on our farm,” he says. “After that, anyone can build one.”

The Clarys see it as a win-win situation. “It improves drainage for agriculture as well as benefits water quality and the environment,” Dwight concludes.

To learn more about the collector, contact Chelsea Nord with Beck’s Hybrids. A version of this article originally appeared in Beck’s Crop Talk newsletter. Thanks to Beck’s Hybrids for providing information for this story.

Reach Nord at 800-937-2325.

Proof these collectors work

When the Clarys emptied the downstream collector late last fall, they recovered an estimated 21 wet cubic yards of rich soil. At press time, they were waiting for the weather to cooperate so they could remove sediment from the upstream collector. They expect to remove even more cubic yards from it.

Once the soils drain, they will perform nutrient testing and evaluate particle size. Stay tuned for further results.

Turn idea into reality:
Dwight and Lisa Clary persisted until they could build sediment collectors on their farm.

01123547b.tifClose-up of collector: Note how sediment can settle out and fall into the structure.

This article published in the January, 2012 edition of INDIANA PRAIRIE FARMER.

All rights reserved. Copyright Farm Progress Cos. 2012.