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How to manage a farm pond without breaking the bank

Source: Wikimedia Commons

Building a farm pond can be expensive. An Iowa Department of Natural Resources Fisheries Biologist encourages land owners to thoroughly plan before implementing a farm pond, and reminds current farm pond owners of cost-effective ways to manage a farm pond.

Mark Flammang is fisheries biologist with the Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR). Flammang said a good farm pond starts long before stocking the pond with fish.

“You need to consider the fact that a pond reflects the land that drains into it, so you’ll want a high-quality watershed,” Flammang said. “You want a well-protected watershed and the right combination of vegetation on the land to stabilize the soil and reduce nutrient run-off. That will improve your water quality, and that’s the key to creating a good habitat.”

Flammang notes building a farm pond is not cheap, and advises landowners to plan and invest wisely.

“Typically, a moderate-size farm pond dam is going to be at least $10,000,” Flammang said. “When you’re investing that kind of money, you want to take the time to build a quality pond and do things in a way that’s going to ensure that you have that pond around for a long time to come.”

Like most things, a farm pond needs to be properly managed. Flammang said the best way to manage your farm pond is to start with the right combination of fish.

“Typically, the simplest system is best, so largemouth bass, bluegill and channel catfish. The other thing to keep in mind is excess nutrients will result in excess vegetation in your pond. If you have too many nutrients in your pond, you can reduce that nutrient input by providing high quality vegetative cover on the soil,” Flammang said.

Once the vegetation starts to grow, one must be able to identify the type of vegetation for best management practices.

“Typically, you want to reduce vegetation if it’s gets to about 25% coverage in July or August. Oftentimes the best way to treat that would be through some sort of herbicide treatment. The problem is, you have to match the herbicide with the vegetation, (and) that’s not something you can do easily. You’ll have to do research and have someone direct you to the proper herbicide to control your problem.”

Flammang said the most cost-effective way to treat your watershed is to prevent vegetation from becoming a problem.

“After that, you want to try and weigh the cheapest solution to the problem, and still (have it) be effective,” Flammang said. “There are some herbicides out there that are very effective, but they’re also very expensive. You want to, of course, do some research and ask questions as to what herbicide will treat the vegetation type in the most cost-effective manner.”

While managing a farm pond can be expensive, Flammang adds there is nothing quite like the aesthetics a farm pond adds to your property.

“It’s one thing to be able to go out, catch a fish, harvest a fish and feed fish to your family. One of the main upsides is having a high-quality farm pond to enjoy. There’s nothing more relaxing than sitting by the pond on a summer evening,” Flammang said.

For more information about building and managing a farm pond, visit www.iowadnr.gov and search “farm ponds.”

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