Agricultural lands are a vital part of our landscape and provide us with fresh, local food. However, agricultural practices can impact water quality and wildlife habitat. There are many beneficial practices that farmers can adopt to ensure that the land and water resources near the farm are healthy. Below are some practices that can be easily incorporated into the farm operation to benefit both the farm and its associated wildlife.

Re-establish or maintain the natural vegetation around all water bodies.
A riparian zone is the land next to streams, rivers, lakes, ponds, and wetlands. Vegetated riparian zones with trees and shrubs benefit both the farm operation and wildlife habitat. Farm activities, land topography (including slope), and soil type all play a role in the width of vegetation that is required. Any width provides some benefits but at least 30 m (100 feet) is ideal.
Practice nutrient management strategies that prevent fertilizers and manures from entering water bodies.
Increased lake nutrient levels are a significant threat to Atlantic Coastal Plain Flora. Phosphorous levels have increased up to 1000-fold on some lakes in Nova Scotia over the last five years. Increased nutrient levels can create algal blooms and encourage the growth of common weedy plants that can outcompete ACPF. In addition to practicing good nutrient management strategies, consider supporting monitoring efforts to ensure potential changes in water quality are detected quickly and addressed promptly. 
Do not infill or alter the wetlands on your property.
Historical land practices often promoted the infilling of wetlands to the detriment of many species. We now recognize the vital ecosystem functions that wetlands provide, and that they represent unique habitat for many wildlife species.  Any wetland alteration requires approval from Nova Scotia Environment.
Reduce or eliminate pesticide, herbicide, and chemical fertilizer use.
Crop rotation and planting autumn cover crops can reduce soil erosion and the need for pesticides, herbicides, and chemical fertilizers. If you choose to apply chemicals, ensure that you do so at least 30 m (100 feet) away from water sources and wetlands, and do not spray before a rain event or in windy conditions. This will reduce the effects of pesticide runoff and drift. Ensure they are stored properly in a contained area well away from wetlands and water bodies to prevent contamination of surface or ground water. The Environmental Farm Plan program can be contacted for current guidelines (902-893-2293).
Plough or till across a slope (with the contour) instead of up and down.
Each furrow acts as a barrier to slow overland runoff and soil erosion. Avoid ploughing in the fall, which will result in soil erosion during the winter. If ploughing must be done, plant a cover crop to prevent erosion during the winter months.
Farms with livestock operations should fence around all water sources and wetlands, and establish a watering station away from the natural water source.
This is beneficial to both livestock health and the environment.  Livestock trample vegetation and compact the soil, which alters riparian habitat, increases erosion, and impacts fish habitat and water quality. Fencing will reduce the amount of manure and urine entering waterways and can make livestock less susceptible to mastitis and foot-rot. Solar and wind watering systems are available. Contact the Soil and Crop Improvement Association of Nova Scotia for information on alternative livestock watering systems:, 902-758-3530.
Avoid in-stream livestock crossings.
In-stream crossings cause erosion, decrease water quality, and destroy wildlife habitat. Alternative types of crossings including round culverts, arch culverts, and bridges. A Watercourse Alteration Permit from Nova Scotia Environment (refer to the 'Contact Information' page) is required before building an agricultural stream crossing. 
Plant cover crops over the winter if your soil is bare.
Cover crops reduce erosion, enrich the soil, and can attract beneficial insects to your property. If planting before August, legumes such as sweet clover and white clover are beneficial cover crops as they fix nitrogen and provide habitat and food for beneficial insects. If you are planting late in the season, winter rye is a good choice.
Set disc mower blades higher than 10 cm and use a flushing bar when harvesting hay or cutting grass by roadsides to avoid contact with turtles, birds, and other wildlife.
Setting your disc mower blades higher than 10 cm reduces blade contact with turtles, bird nests, and small mammals without having a substantial impact on the hay harvest. Mowing higher reduces blade wear, water runoff and can improve yields by increasing soil moisture levels. A flushing bar on the front of the tractor during the hay harvest or roadside cutting will reduce contact with birds, deer and other wildlife. Contact Ducks Unlimited (902-667-8726) if you are interested in obtaining a flushing bar.
Vegetated Riparian Zones
  • Are areas of rich biodiversity and provide a variety of wildlife habitats
  • Filter overland runoff including sediments, pesticides, and nutrients before they enter the water
  • Reduce the amount and severity of flooding
  • Create important feeding and hiding places and improve water temperature for aquatic species
  • Is an easy and inexpensive way to stabilize stream banks, maintain biodiversity, and reduce erosion, eliminating the need for mechanical bank stabilization.


Riparian Habitat Restoration and Stewardship Program
Clean Annapolis River Project works in the Annapolis River Watershed to restore and protect the ecological health of the watershed through science, leadership, and community engagement. They work with landowners to enhance and protect riparian habitat by fencing livestock out of riparian zones, providing alternate sources of drinking water, installing stream crossings, and re-establishing vegetation by planting trees and shrubs. For more information call 902-532-7533 or 1-888-547-4344, email, or visit


Nova Scotia Environmental Farm Plan
This program evaluates current farm practices with one-on-one site visits and provides an environmental action plan that identifies environmental risks on your property. This program is free and confidential. For more information please refer to the website or call 902-893-2293.

Beneficial Management Practices for Riparian Zones in Atlantic Canada
Written by the Island Nature Trust. Provides information on ways to maintain or create a healthy riparian zone. Download an electronic copy from the website above (under resources) or call 902-566-9150 to request a free hard copy.

Financial Services and Funding

Visit this site to learn about current financial services and funding programs from Nova Scotia Department of Agriculture.

Water on the Farm: Beneficial Management Practices Around Surface Water
Tips on how to reduce the impact of agricultural activities on surface water. To obtain a free copy or for other information please call the Department of Agriculture at 902-679-6021.

Nova Scotia’s Eastern Habitat Joint Venture (EHJV)
EHJV was formed in 1989 with the purpose of reducing and/or reversing wetland loss through communitybased stewardship efforts with individual landowners and through partnerships. Participate in the Agriculture Biodiversity Plan to receive a free personalized site visit and voluntary recommendations on ways to support biodiversity on your farm. For more information please contact the Stewardship Coordinator Reg Newell at 902-679-6145,