Protecting the land we farm on is critical to both our crops and nearby properties. We take proactive steps to prevent soil erosion. This requires significant monitoring and planning, but the rewards pay off –especially in terms of our commitment toward sustainability.
Crop rotation is one powerful way to reduce soil erosion. Every few years, we change the crop planted in a particular field. For instance, we go from corn to alfalfa, and later to soybeans. Rotation actually reduces pesticide use because it naturally breaks the cycle of weed growth, the appearance of insects and plant disease. Putting alfalfa in the rotation also reduces fertilizer costs because it replaces soil nitrogen that the corn and other grains deplete.
Tilling the land
Tilling the land according to the contour of the hills enables us to control water flow. If we notice a certain water flow pattern develop, we’ll put in a grass filter strip to redistribute the flow more evenly. This prevents gullies from forming in the field, which in turn prevents erosion.
After the fall harvest, we re-plant a select number of our fields with a winter cover crop, such as rye. This technique establishes vegetation that protects the soil from wind and water erosion during the dormant winter and spring months. Cover crops are a crucial part of our land conservation practice for numerous reasons including: soil health, protection from erosion, and keeping the nutrients in the soil stable.
We apply a product called gypsum to our farm fields. Gypsum is a way for us add a source of sulfur to our soils. Gypsum applications really benefit overall soil health. Because of this practice, our soils have an increased ability to hold moisture, which in turn, reduces runoff from our fields. Gypsum also reduces compaction of soils.