One of my favorite projects of the year involves our showcase special section where we profile the American Soybean Association’s Conservation Legacy Award winners.
These three farm families — from Indiana, Iowa and North Carolina — take their conservation practices and land and water sustainability as seriously as growing profitable crops. They not only embody a “think different” attitude to improve water quality and soil health, they also adopt practices that deliver results in every field.
For example, these farmers have learned how manure, no-till and cover crops work together to grow soil organic matter slowly over time. They talk about how building soil while maintaining and growing yields is one of the most satisfying things they do.
Due to increasing organic matter, these farmers have found that soil tilth improves and water infiltration rates go up. These conservationists no longer see standing water after a big rain, which makes critical fieldwork more timely. By soils holding more water, crops withstand longer periods of little rainfall.
These farmers have fine-tuned an approach to nitrogen fertility that often does not start in the fall. It starts at planting, followed by in-season testing before application to ensure the crop gets the correct, timely amount.
These farmers have experienced cover crop benefits over time. They have dug soil pits and traced roots from a cereal rye cover crop down 40 inches. They have witnessed the rye reduce surface erosion and keep more nutrients in the field each spring.
Every one of these farmers knows the importance of a cleaner watershed, and they all use a number of different structures to direct water flow and filter runoff. They don’t fear measuring the water coming off their fields or out of their tile lines, because they have a system in place that drives improvement.
These award-winning farmers easily share their failures, too. Like overcom- ing no-till challenges with grit and determination to make it work, when
other local farmers said it wouldn’t work. Same scenario goes for cover crops.
They not only help educate other farmers on what has worked for them, they also go to the next level and educate consumers on their stewardship practices that benefit clean water and safe food.
These farm families come from a legacy of conservation, and the current generation continues to build an improved soil and water quality legacy.
Where are you in your journey to build a conservation legacy? What is keeping you from making progress? Will it require a change in mindset? Will it require landlord buy-in, since it provides long-term benefits for their investment? I truly believe improved soil health will be a game-changer. Go for it.
I sincerely thank you for reading, for viewing more valuable content on csdigest.com, for subscribing to our newsletters, and for being willing to Think Different.