Allowing farmers to harvest vegetation from their riparian buffers will not significantly impede the ability of those streamside tracts to protect water quality by capturing nutrients and sediment — and it will boost farmers’ willingness to establish buffers.
That is the conclusion of Penn State College of Agricultural Sciences researchers, who compared the impacts of six riparian buffer design scenarios over two, four-year crop rotations in two small central and southeastern Pennsylvania watersheds. Two of the buffer scenarios included the harvesting of switchgrass and swamp willow trees.
Allowing farmers to harvest vegetation from their riparian buffers and sell it for biofuels — not permitted under current Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program, or CREP, federal regulations — would go a long way toward persuading farmers to establish riparian buffers, researchers contend. And farmers’ buy-in is badly needed in Pennsylvania, where hundreds of miles of new buffers are needed along streams emptying into