Conservation Now

January 9, 2009 06:00 PM
This newly seeded grassed waterway, enrolled in the Conservation Reserve Program, will control erosion on a farm operated by Mike Starkey (photo) and his family in Brownsburg, Ind.

CRP Makes a Waterway Affordable

Enrolling in the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) helped Mike Starkey of Brownsburg, Ind., solve a soil erosion problem for minimal out-of-pocket cost. Mike is part of Starkey Farms Partnership, which also includes his son, Nick, his brother, Dave, and Dave's son, Jeff.

"We bought this farm about five years ago,” Mike says. "When we had some severe rainstorms the past couple years, the runoff water began cutting a channel through the field. Besides carrying away soil and nutrients, there was a danger that the erosion could damage the main tile line that runs through the field.”

Having installed several grassed waterways and grass buffer strips in the past, Starkey knew the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service could help. He enrolled the land required for the waterway in USDA's continuous-sign-up version of CRP.

"Thanks to cost-share incentives that were available, we only had to pay 10% of the cost of installing the waterway, and the government paid for the rest,” Starkey says. "In addition, we will receive rental payments, comparable to cash rent on this soil type, for 10 years.”

The new waterway is the latest in a series of measures the environmentally aware family has taken to protect natural resources. Some of the others include cover crops, continuous no-till planting and steps to become more efficient with nitrogen fertilizer.

For more information about CRP and other conservation programs, visit your USDA Farm Service Center.

Bumper Crop of Tillage Meetings

Winter is a fine time to hone your conservation-tillage techniques. Here are some of the industries' top-notch meetings coming up soon.

The 13th annual No-till on the Plains Winter Conference and trade show will be held Jan. 27 to 28 in Salina, Kan. The conference focuses on continuous no-till production practices (it doesn't cover strip-till or mulch-till).

Featured speakers will be Brazilian no-till expert Joao Carlos de Moraes Sa; University of Nebraska agricultural engineer Paul Jasa; Kentucky no-till consultant Phil Needham; and Ray Ward of Kearney, Neb.–based Ward Laboratories. Kirk Gadzia of Resource Management Services in Bernalillo, N.M., will describe his holistic approach to farm and ranch management. There will also be farmer panels. For information and online registration, visit You also can register by calling (888) 330-5142.

The University of Illinois and other sponsors are offering three regional seminars. Buckingham, Iowa, farmer Clay Mitchell will discuss RTK auto-guidance, strip-till and controlled-traffic farming. Jerry Hatfield, director of USDA's National Soil Tilth Laboratory in Ames, Iowa, will discuss tillage's role in carbon sequestration.

Other topics include no-till planter setup; weed shifts and resistance in no-till and strip-till; and opportunities for state and federal cost-sharing, technical assistance and conservation payments. Each of the seminars also will feature a farmer panel.

The dates, locations and sources for more information:

Preregistration is required one week before each meeting.

The 21st annual High Plains No-till Conference will be held Feb. 3 to 4 in Greeley, Colo. It will include a trade show and an antique tractor and truck show. About 40 breakout sessions will cover crop residue, evaporation,

nitrogen rates, water economics, weed management and presentations designed for spouses. University of Nebraska agricultural engineer Paul Jasa will discuss equipment considerations for no-till. Panel discussions will cover limited irrigation, strip-till and grain sorghum. For information, go to or call (970) 576-8970.

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