Soil loss is something that we should all strive to prevent on our farms. A soil loss of only 1/32 of an inch over an acre represents an approximate 5-ton loss. That’s a loss that on many soil types is unsustainable.
One of the biggest issues for our lakes and streams in Carroll County is sediment. Sediment is caused by soil eroding from the surrounding landscape. How do we know this, you may ask? A quick look at the number of dredging projects that have taken place over the last few years indicates that sediment is a real issue.
The solution may seem simple: Less tillage plus more living cover equals less erosion. But can it be that simple?
Over the last few years, I have been looking for some way to prove to producers that soil health pays. The problem is, there are so many variables. In particular, soil erosion prevention has proven to be a difficult sale.
Transitioning to soil-friendly practices may involve increased peer pressure at the coffee shop, purchasing new equipment and possibly absorbing a yield hit for a couple of years. Coupled with seed, fuel, fertilizer and every other input cost on the rise and crop prices on the decline (at the time of this article being written), and poof! You have just lost the sale.
So, there must be an easier way.
Historically, soil and water conservation districts offered various types of equipment for rent. Equipment sometimes too expensive for one producer to justify purchasing, but not too expensive to rent. Lowering costs, providing technical assistance and reducing risk to producers can help them get access to new equipment and exposure to new practices.
The most popular of these are no-till drills and no-till planters, which gave all producers in the district an opportunity to try no-till firsthand. Now, as in times past, we have expanded our equipment rental inventory to include a cover crop roller, a new piece of equipment that will allow producers to get the most out of their cover crops. This is a tool to improve soil health and reduce erosion.
Our district offers discounts on all of our equipment, in an effort to reduce the monetary burden on our producers and give them the opportunity to see the benefits of soil health. Soil erosion is a serious issue.
Unfortunately, erosion is a problem that happens over long periods of time, making it easy for it to hide in plain sight. The problem did not happen over night and we cannot solve it overnight either, but we must be willing to make changes today in order to have a successful tomorrow.
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