Illinois Farmer Q&A: How is your farm different from your grandparent's? How is it the same?

August 18, 2016

Illinois Farmer Q&A: How is your farm different from your grandparent's? How is it the same?

 You have questions about how the environment is cared for on farms, and Illinois farmers have those answers. We asked local farmers your questions about environmental stewardship so you can get your answers straight from the source. Let's talk about what's on your table.

 

"Grandpa tilled and plowed the soil multiple times. Now we only do it every few years if that. Grandpa also broadcast fertilizers over the soil surface, a practice we dramatically reduced this past year with strip-tillage. What hasn’t changed is a love and respect for the land. Grandpa didn’t plow or spread fertilizer because he didn’t care about the environment. He did it because he remembered the rationing of the Great Depression and felt it was imperative to improve crop yield to feed his family and others. We feel the same way now, we just have the benefit of time to see that both yield AND quality matter and there is exciting new technology to enable us to feed our family and others with much less damaging effects on Mother Nature."

 

"My grandpa and dad would spend hours in the spring and summer plowing the fields. It was the only source of weed control. If you garden, think about how fast the weeds can take over. You might spend one day weeding and two days later, your crop is being choked out. Same thing happens in fields. So, they plowed, weekly if not more. All that disturbance to the soil caused a rapid breakdown of organic matter, created more opportunity for erosion and didn't effectively control weeds. These days we stay out of the fields as much as possible. We apply a pre-emerge herbicide before we plant, which will catch any new weed growth. Then we plant, fertilize and wait. Because we use a gm-seed resistant to glyposate and other herbicides, we can spray one time before the crop canopies, or grows tall enough to cover the soil. We eliminate passes through the field, conserving and preserving soil while accomplishing the same thing my grandpa did."

 

"Maximizing by minimizing. Instead of whole field applications of fertilizer, we VRT to meet crop needs without waste. We also only spray for weeds when necessary, and the Nitrogen we put on is placed for crop needs and not simplicity.
Our crop rotation remains the same from previous generations, along with some ground we run. (My dad is a first generation farmer.)"
-Casey Watkins
 
"Even though science is providing us with new ways to protect the environment we still use many of the same methods to reduce soil erosion that have been around for many years. We've created many "grass waterways" that slow the speed of water runoff and allow it to drop any soil particles it may have picked up. Another method is crop rotation. By planting hay crops that keep the soil permanently covered we are able to reduce soil erosion to virtually zero on soils that have a high erosion potential due to steep slopes or soil types that are prone to erosion."

 

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