Sustainability Drives The Modern Farm
Mar 20, 2015
“Sustainable agriculture” is a trendy term. It sounds impressive, but what is it? To me as a grain farmer, it’s about the efficient and responsible use of one’s resources. I produce as much as I can, but try to do it in a careful way. I’ll go over several examples of what I mean.
No-Till Practices. When and where possible, we no-till our farms. Planting, for example is not disruptive and would be a no-till practice, unlike using a disk to break the dirt. It is a challenge to set a planter and drill on no-till ground because there is a high amount of organic matter left from the previous crop. It reduces fuel and equipment use to no-till a farm, but is it’s also a way to reduce erosion. Erosion can damage a farm by moving fertile top soil and increases the odds of runoff into roadways or streams.
Technology. Monitors in equipment track inputs and allow us to minimize overlap of chemicals, fertilizers, and seed. We don’t want chemicals to overlap because it’s expensive and harmful. Harmful not only to the crop but also to the environment. GPS makes farmers seem lazy because the tractor drives itself, but that same efficiency reduces the time a tractor has to run. Less running time plus emission controls in new tractors reduces pollutants.
Filter strips and waterways. We use waterways on farms susceptible to erosion. It may reduce the cropland area, but sometimes saves a farm from severe damage. Once a natural ditch is formed and is not controlled, it becomes worse over time. Filter strips slow down or stop water runoff. Slowing runoff water prevents farm inputs from washing into unwanted areas like streams.
GMO seed. Not all of our seed is GMO, but our GMO corn seed produces a higher yield and requires fewer chemicals because it may target specific pests. Higher productivity on fewer acres is a long term plan for farmers to keep up with the growing food demand. Bt traits that target specific pests protect other species.
Automated Irrigation. We not only use irrigation tips to minimize evaporation, but digitally control pivots to apply only the necessary amount of water. My area doesn’t have a water shortage, but this makes a difference in many areas. We can also use a pivot to apply fertilizer. This saves an equipment trip across the field because the crop needed watering anyway.
Agronomists. We use crop scouting and soil testing services to be sure we apply as few fertilizers and pesticides as possible. For example, we don’t want to kill beneficial insects that aren’t a threat to the crop. In some instances, you may kill predatory insects without killing the truly damaging ones.
Many of our practices are cost efficient, but all of them are respectful to the environment and land. I want others to know the farming community is specializing our practices to be sustainable. We’re the ones living by the land, and this makes us especially motivated to be responsible with the environment around us.
Email Katie at firstname.lastname@example.org