No-Till Notes "Excellent Opportunity"

 


 Last week I had the opportunity to do something that I hadn’t done in 36 years. I walked into a college classroom. I have to admit that it felt like old times watching the students enter the classroom in varying degrees of anticipated learning. Some had just gotten out of bed, some were going through the motions, and others were eagerly awaiting an opportunity to learn. I felt right at home with them and could relate to all their levels of the college experience as I had walked in all their shoes at one point or another.

Dr. Ron Bolze, instructor at Chadron State College, invited me to come to his classroom and talk to the students about some of the limited experiences I’ve had with forage crops on our farm. Dr. Bolze has been instructing his class on the virtues of soil health. I was very impressed to see a college instructor teaching his students about the importance of focusing on soil health on their farms and ranches.

I visited with the students about our farming operation and how we have been involved in no-till crop production for the past twenty some years. I noted the improvement we’ve seen in the health of our soil. I also explained to the students about our limited use of forage crops for grazing as a means of reducing our commercial fertilizer inputs in raising irrigated corn this year following the forage crops.


 I also talked to them about our use of irrigation to produce our corn crop because we leave plenty of residues in the field from the previous crops to reduce soil moisture evaporation and improve water infiltration into our soil. Even though we are about 3.5 inches below normal in precipitation for June, July, and August this growing season, we will produce this year’s irrigated corn crop with about 13 inches of irrigation.

I also explained to the students how I feel it is important that we do more on our farm to improve soil health. The best way I know how to do more than what we have done with no-till crop production is to introduce diverse forage crops and cattle grazing into our operation. I really think we need to take a hard look at our own operation and make the changes necessary to further improve the health of our soil.

For a brief 50 minutes I had the student’s attention in explaining our farming operation. I could have stayed with them longer but the clock forced us to end our visit. Many of the students met with me in the hall to talk more after the class had ended. I really felt honored that they found what I had to say so interesting.


I learned a lot from this college experience. Today’s students are just like the ones I went to college with.  They’re going to do just fine in leading our agricultural community into the next generation. I also had a nice talk with Dr. Bolze during my time on campus. Dr. Bolze has been in the cattle industry and academia his whole life. He knows the benefits of improving the health of the soil on our farms and ranches.

Dr. Bolze visited Gabe Brown’s ranch last summer and was amazed at what he saw.  I first met Gabe seven or eight years ago at a meeting in Salina, Kansas.  No-till on the Plains had invited us both to speak at their annual winter conference. Gabe was speaking about raising forages and grazing cattle as part of his operation. I was talking about no-till crop production. At the time I didn’t realize Gabe was light years ahead of me in production agriculture.

I listened to Gabe’s talk while I was in Salina but didn’t really realize the importance of his message and how it related to my farm. Gabe was talking about diverse forages and grazing cattle and I was a grain producer so it took some time for me to connect with him and his message.

Throughout the next several years I had several more meetings with Gabe, I went to Burleigh County, North Dakota to tour his ranch/farm along with other producer’s operations in the area. Their district soil conservationist, Jay Fuhrer was kind enough to spend a day with us talking about all the benefits of improving soil health. 

Next week I’d like to visit more with you about what I learned from Dr. Bolze and Gabe. 

 

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