Science Rocks the Pinelands: Water Infiltration
Managing stormwater on our Rancocas Creek Farm
By Ryan Rebozo, Ph.D.September 23, 2020
The Rancocas Creek Farm is a 72-acre farm on land owned by the Pinelands Preservation Alliance in Southampton, NJ. Our goal is to transform this former soy farm into a model of sustainably managed land that includes green stormwater infrastructure and organic (chemical-free), regenerative farming practices.
This week’s Science Rocks the Pinelands post is about stormwater runoff. When large rain events happen at our farm, water flows off a portion of the property and into Vincentown Village and the nearby Rancocas Creek. This happens because water cannot soak into the ground.
When stormwater isn’t managed effectively there can be problems with soil erosion, water contamination of nearby streams or ponds and, in some cases, roads can become dangerous or impassable during a storm.
Our soil and stormwater management plan for the farm involves using soil-building cover crops, making and spreading compost to add organic matter to the soil, and planting native trees and shrubs in the wettest areas of the farm to help with water uptake. We also plan to keep more of the land at the farm unplowed, or in perennial crops (like orchard trees, rhubarb, and brambles). Land that is planted in trees, or clover or protected by materials like woodchips, is better able to absorb water while protecting the valuable soils from erosion.
We want to learn from our efforts and share our results with other farms and communities in the Pinelands.
This picture from the end of August shows us measuring water infiltration on the farm. This test allows us to see how long it takes for a known volume of water to be absorbed over a given area of soil.
We are interested in the infiltration rate because it determines how well our farm absorbs rain during storm events. As we add organic matter and reduce compaction, we expect the farm will be able to take on more water and have less runoff.
These measurements will be taken once a year moving forward. In time we hope to see that the soil will take up and hold more water. This measurement will be used in combination with other measurements like soil organic content and bulk density to give us a better idea of how the soil is changing over time.