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HPJ: Embracing Conservation Has Plenty of Benefits

Embracing conservation has plenty of benefits
By Sara Wyant

*This article was taken directly from the High Plains Journal - September 14, 2020 Edition.

Growing up on a farm, I noticed that my dad had always been interested in conservation. He installed terraces, grass waterways and ponds on our Iowa hills and practiced crop rotation. It was my first glimpse of learning about leaving the land better than you started with.

My outlook on conservation expanded when I first started my career in journalism. I was fortunate to meet many people who were involved in national conservation efforts, including Bill Richards who became head of the Soil Conservation Service (now the Natural Resources Conservation Service) at the U.S. Department of Agriculture in 1990. As an Ohio farmer, Richards truly understood the benefits of protecting soil and water. Often described as the “the grandfather of No-Till,” he was thinking about soil health before it was cool.

Luckily, I was able to find a young farm family who embraced many of the same conservation principles I did. They’ve got a great looking crop of no-till beans and if the weather allows there will be cover crops planted this fall.

A recent report demonstrates that practices like planting cover crops are beneficial in a number of ways. The Conservation Technology Information Center's annual survey report, noted that more than half of farmers who seeded their cash crop into a growing cover crop last yeara practice known as “planting green”said it helped them plant earlier than they could in fields that didn't have cover crops, according to an annual survey.

The numbers reflect those who planted green, about 52% of the nearly 1,200 respondents in the survey of 2019 cover crop practices. Seven in 10 of those farmers also said planting green improved their weed control, and about the same percentage said it helped with soil moisture management.

The survey “indicated that some of the concerns that many growers have had about the effects of cover crops on planting dates in a wet year turned out not to be true,” said CTIC’s Mike Smith, who ran the survey. “In fact, in many cases, cover crops helped farmers plant earlier in the very wet spring of 2019.”

The report also found significant percentages of farmers who said cover crops increased yields, resulted in better weed management and helped them save on herbicides and fertilizer.

Cover crops are increasingly being touted as a way to save money and improve the environment, by reducing runoff from fields, cutting chemical use and sequestering carbon in the soil.

*This article was taken directly from the High Plains Journal - September 14, 2020 Edition.