SOURCES: This table was derived directly from USDA NRCS conservation practice standards; the language used is specific to NRCS practices at the time of publication (March 2023). For more information about these and other conservation practices, visit national practice standards available through the electronic Field Office Technical Guide (FOTG). Lists and PDFs for each practice are also available on the NRCS website or your local NRCS field office.
Appendix A: Table 1
|Each practice is used to accomplish one or more of the following purposes:
|The temporary or permanent exclusion of animals, people, vehicles, and equipment from an area
|Achieve and maintain desired resource conditions by monitoring and managing the intensity of use by animals, people, vehicles, and equipment in coordination with the application schedule of practices, measures, and activities specified in the conservation plan. Note: Access Control is often applied with conservation practices like Prescribed Grazing (528) or Tree/Shrub Establishment (612).
|Trees or shrubs are planted in sets of single or multiple rows with agronomic, horticultural crops or forages produced in the alleys between the sets of woody plants that produce additional products.
|Enhance microclimatic conditions to improve crop or forage quality and quantity • Reduce surface water runoff and erosion • Improve soil health by increasing utilization and cycling of nutrients • Alter subsurface water quantity or water table depths • Enhance wildlife and beneficial insect habitat • Increase crop diversity • Decrease offsite movement of nutrients or chemicals • Increase carbon storage in plant biomass and soils • Develop renewable energy systems • Improve air quality
|Establishing and maintaining permanent vegetative cover.
|Reduce sheet, rill, and wind erosion and sedimentation • Reduce groundwater and surface water quality degradation by nutrients and surface water quality degradation by sediment • Reduce emissions of particulate matter (including particulate matter precursors and greenhouse gases) • Enhance wildlife and pollinator and beneficial organism habitat • Improve soil health
|Conservation Crop Rotation
|A planned sequence of crops grown on the same ground over a period of time (i.e., the rotation cycle)
|Reduce sheet, rill, and wind erosion • Maintain or increase soil health and organic matter content • Reduce water quality degradation due to excess nutrients • Improve soil moisture efficiency • Reduce the concentration of salts and other chemicals from saline seeps • Reduce plant pest pressures • Provide feed and forage for domestic livestock • Provide food and cover habitat for wildlife, including pollinator forage, and nesting
|Narrow strips of permanent, herbaceous vegetative cover
established around the hill slope, and alternated down the slope with wider cropped strips that are farmed on the contour.
|Reduce sheet and rill erosion • Reduce water quality degradation from the transport of sediment and other waterborne contaminants downslope • Improve soil moisture management through increased water infiltration • Reduce water quality degradation from the transport of nutrients downslope
|Grasses, legumes, and forbs planted for seasonal vegetative cover
|Reduce sheet, rill, and wind erosion • Maintain or increase soil organic matter quantity • Improve soil aggregate stability, soil organic matter quality, and habitat for soil organisms • Reduce water quality degradation by utilizing excess soil nutrients • Reduce weed and plant pest pressure • Improve moisture management • Reduce soil compaction • Supply nitrogen to the subsequent crop • Improve habitat for pollinators, beneficial organisms, or natural enemies of crop pests
|Critical Area Planting
vegetation on sites that have, or are expected to have, high erosion rates, and on sites that have physical, chemical, or biological conditions that prevent the establishment of vegetation with normal seeding/planting practices.
|Stabilize areas with existing or expected high rates of soil erosion by wind or water • Stabilize stream and channel banks, pond and other shorelines, and earthen features of structural conservation practices • Stabilize areas such as sand dunes and riparian areas
|Performing tillage operation below the normal tillage depth to modify adverse physical or chemical properties of a soil.
|Bury or mix soil deposits from wind or water erosion or flood overwash • Reduce soil compaction by fracturing restrictive soil layers. Note: This practice applies to all land uses having adverse soil conditions which inhibit plant growth, such as compacted layers formed by field operations, restrictive layers such as cemented hardpans (duripan) in the root zone, or overwash or deposits from wind and water erosion or flooding. This practice does not apply to normal field operations and tillage methods.
|A strip of permanent vegetation established at the edge or around the perimeter of a field.
|Reduce erosion from wind and water and reduce excessive sediment to surface waters (soil erosion) • Reduce sedimentation offsite and protect water quality and nutrients in surface and ground waters (water quality degradation) • Provide food and cover for wildlife and pollinators or other beneficial organisms (inadequate habitat for fish and wildlife) • Reduce greenhouse gases and increase carbon storage (air quality impact) • Reduce emissions of particulate matter (air quality impact)
|A strip of herabaceous vegetation that removes contaminants from overland flow.
|Reduce suspended solids and associated contaminants in runoff and excessive sediment in surface waters • Reduce dissolved contaminant loadings in runoff • Reduce suspended solids and associated contaminants in irrigation tailwater and excessive sediment in surface waters.
|Forage Harvest Management
|The timely cutting removal of forages as hay, green chop, or ensilage.
|Optimize quantity and quality of forage at the desired levels while promoting vigorous plant regrowth • Manage the species composition to enhance desirable species Reduce excess soil nutrients • Reduce pest pressure (insects, disease, weeds, invasive plants or plant toxins) • Improve or protect wildlife and their habitat • Optimize soil microbial life and aggregate stability • Reduce soil compaction
|Forest Stand Improvement
|The manipulation of tree and shrub species composition, structure, or density to achieve desired forest conditions.
|Maintain or improve forest carbon stocks • Maintain or improve forest health and productivity • Maintain or improve forest structure and composition • Maintain or improve wildlife, fish, and pollinator habitat • Manage natural precipitation more efficiently • Reduce forest pest pressure • Reduce forest wildfire hazard
|A shaped or graded channel that is established with suitable vegetation to convey surface water at a non-erosive velocity using a broad and shallow cross-section to a stable outlet.
|Convey runoff from terraces, diversions, or other water concentrations without causing erosion or flooding • Prevent gully formation • Protect/improve water quality
|Establishment of dense vegetation in a linear design to achieve a natural resource conservation purpose
|Habitat, including food, cover, and corridors for terrestrial wildlife • To enhance pollen, nectar, and nesting habitat for pollinators • Food, cover, and shade for aquatic organisms that live in adjacent streams or watercourses • To provide substrate for predaceous and beneficial invertebrates as a component of integrated pest management • To intercept airborne particulate matter • To reduce chemical drift and odor movement • Screens and barriers to noise and dust • To increase carbon storage in biomass and soils • Living fences • Boundary delineation and contour guidelines
|Herbaceous Weed Treatment
|The removal or control of herbaceous weeds including invasive, noxious, prohibited or undesirable plants.
|Enhance accessibility, quantity, and/or quality of forage and/or browse • Restore or release native or desired plant communities for wildlife habitat • Protect soils and control erosion • Reduce fine fuel loads and wildfire hazard • Control pervasive plant species to a desired level of treatment
|Herbaceous Wind Barriers
|Herbaceous vegetation established in narrow strips within the field to reduce wind speed and wind erosion
|Reduce soil erosion (wind erosion: saltation, creep, and suspension) • Reduce soil particulate emissions to improve air quality. • Improve plant health by reducing crop damage by wind or wind-borne soil particles
|Applying plant residues or other suitable materials to the land surface.
|Improve the efficiency of moisture management • Reduce irrigation energy used in farming/ranching practices and field operations • Improve the efficient use of irrigation water • Prevent excessive bank erosion from water conveyance channels • Reduce concentrated flow erosion • Reduce sheet, rill, and wind erosion • Improve plant productivity and health • Maintain or increase organic matter content • Reduce emissions of particulate matter
|Manage rate, source, placement, and timing of plant nutrients and soil amendments while reducing environmental impacts
|Improve plant health and productivity • Reduce excess nutrients in surface and ground water • Reduce emissions of objectionable odors • Reduce emissions of particulate matter (PM) and PM precursors • Reduce emissions of greenhouse gases (GHG) • Reduce emissions of ozone precursors • Reduce the risk of potential pathogens from manure, biosolids, or compost application from reaching surface and ground water • Improve or maintain soil organic matter
|Pest Management Conservation System
|A system that combined an integrated pest management (IPM) decision-making process with natural resource conservation to address pest and environmental impacts.
|Reduce plant pest pressure • Reduce injury to beneficial organisms • Reduce transport of pesticides to surface and ground water • Reduce emissions of particulate matter (PM) and PM precursors (chemical droplet drift) • Reduce emissions of ozone precursors (pesticide volatilizations)
|Planned fire applied to a predetermined area.
|Manage undesirable vegetation to improve plant community structure and composition • Manage pests, pathogens, and diseases to reduce plant pressure • Reduce wildfire hazards from biomass accumulation • Improve terrestrial habitat for wildlife and invertebrates • Improve plant and seed production, quantity, and/or quality • Facilitate distribution of grazing and browsing animals to improve forage-animal balance • Improve and maintain habitat for soil organisms and enhance soil health
|Managing the harvest of vegetation with grazing and/or browsing animals with the intent to achieve specific ecological, economic, and management objectives.
|Improve or maintain desired species composition, structure and/or vigor of plant communities • Improve or maintain quantity and/or quality of forage for grazing and browsing animals’ health and productivity • Improve or maintain surface and/or subsurface water quality and/or quantity • Improve or maintain riparian and/or watershed function • Reduce soil erosion, and maintain or improve soil health • Improve or maintain the quantity, quality, or connectivity
|The seeding and establishment of herbaceous and woody species for the improvement of vegetation composition and productivity of the plant community to meet management goals.
|Restore a plant community to a state similar to the ecological site description reference state for the site or another desired plant community • Provide or improve forages for livestock • Provide or improve forage, browse, or cover for wildlife • Reduce erosion by wind and water • Improve water quality and quantity • Restore hydrologic function • Increase and/or stabilize carbon balance and sequestration
|Residue and Tillage Management, No-Till/Strip Till/Direct Seed
|Limiting soil disturbance to manage the amount, orientation and distribution of crop and plant residue on the soil surface year-round
|Reduce sheet, rill and wind erosion and excessive sediment in surface waters • Reduce tillage-induced particulate emissions • Maintain or increase soil health and organic matter content • Increase plant-available moisture • Reduce energy use • Provide food and escape cover for wildlife.
|Residue and Tillage Management Reduced Till
|Managing the amount, orientation, and distribution of crop and other plant residue on the soil surface year-round while limiting soil-disturbing activities used to grow and harvest crops in systems where the field surface is tilled prior to planting.
|Reduce sheet, rill, and wind erosion and excessive sediment in surface waters (soil erosion) • Reduce tillage- induced particulate emissions (air quality impact) • Improve soil health and maintain or increase organic matter content (soil quality degradation) • Reduce energy use (inefficient energy use)
|Restoration of Rare and Declining Natural Communities
|Reestablishment of abiotic (physical and chemical) and biotic (biological) conditions necessary to support rare or declining natural assemblages of native plants and animals.
|To restore the physical conditions and/or unique plant community on sites that partially support, or once supported, a rare or declining natural community. Application of this practice addresses resource concerns of a degraded plant condition and/or inadequate wildlife habitat.
|Riparian Herbaceous Cover
|Grasses, sedges, rushes, ferns, legumes, and forbs tolerant of intermittent
|Provide or improve food and cover for fish, wildlife and livestock • Improve and maintain water quality • Establish and maintain habitat corridors • Increase water storage on floodplains • Reduce erosion and improve stability to stream banks and shorelines • Increase net carbon storage in the biomass and soil • Enhance pollen, nectar, and nesting habitat for pollinators • Restore, improve or maintain the desired plant communities • Dissipate stream energy and trap sediment • Enhance stream bank protection as part of stream bank soil bioengineering practices
|Establishment and/or management of desired trees and forages on the same land unit.
|Provide forage, shade, and/or shelter for livestock • Improve the productivity and health of trees/shrubs and forages • Improve water quality • Reduce erosion • Enhance wildlife habitat • Improve biological diversity • Improve soil quality • Increase carbon sequestration and storage • Provide for beneficial organisms and pollinators
|Growing planned rotations of erosion resistant and erosion-susceptible crops or fallow in a systematic arrangement of strips across a field.
|Reduce sheet and rill erosion • Reduce wind erosion • Reduce excess nutrients in surface waters • Reduce sediment transport to surface waters • Reduce pesticide transport to surface waters • Improve plant productivity and health
|Establishing woody plants by planting seedlings or cuttings, by direct seeding, and/or through natural regeneration.
|Maintain or improve desirable plant diversity, productivity, and health by establishing woody plants • Create or improve habitat for desired wildlife species compatible with ecological characteristics of the site • Control erosion • Improve water quality • Reduce excess nutrients and other pollutants in runoff and groundwater Sequester and store carbon • Restore or maintain native plant communities • Develop renewable energy systems Conserve energy • Provide for beneficial organisms and pollinators
|Upload Wildlife Habitat Management
|Provide and manage upland habitats and connectivity within the landscape for wildlife.
|Treating upland wildlife habitat concerns identified during the conservation planning process that enable movement, or provide shelter, cover, food in proper amounts, locations and times to sustain wild animals that inhabit uplands during a portion of their life cycle
|Permanent strips of stiff, dens vegetation established along the general contour of slopes or across concentrated flow areas.
|Reduce sheet and rill erosion • Reduce ephemeral gully erosion • Reduce sediment transport to surface waters
|Wildlife Habitat Planting
|Establishing wildlife habitat by planting herbaceous vegetation or shrubs.
|Improve degraded wildlife habitat for the target wildlife species or guild • Establish wildlife habitat that resembles the historic, desired, and reference native plant community
|Establishing, enhancing, or renovating windbreaks, also known as shelterbelts, which are single or multiple rows of frees and/or shrubs in linear or curvilinear configurations
|Reduce soil erosion from wind • Enhance plant health and productivity by protecting plants from wind-related damage • Manage snow distribution to improve moisture utilization by plants • Manage snow distribution to reduce obstacles, ponding, and flooding that impacts other resources, animals, structures, and humans • Improve moisture management by reducing transpiration and evaporation losses and improving irrigation efficiency • Provide shelter from wind, snow, and excessive heat, to protect animals, structures, and humans • Improve air quality by intercepting airborne particulate matter, chemicals, and odors, and/or by reducing airflow across contaminant or dust sources • Reduce energy use in heating and cooling buildings, and in relocating snow • Increase carbon storage in biomass and soils
|Woody Residue Treatment
|The treatment of residual woody material that is created due to management activities or natural disturbances.
|Reduce hazardous fuels • Reduce the risk of harmful insects and disease • Protect/maintain air quality by reducing the risk of wildfire • To improve access for management purposes • Improve access to forage for livestock and wildlife • Develop renewable energy systems • Enhance aesthetics • Reduce the risk of harm to humans and livestock • Improve the soil organic matter • Improve the site for natural or artificial regeneration
This material is based upon work that is supported by the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, U.S. Department of Agriculture through the Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) program. Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.