WESSINGTON SPRINGS, SD — If you handle the soil, it can handle you, defined Dick Kolousek, a fourth-technology farmer in Wessington Springs.
“The extra we can do to maintain the soil productive, the extra the soil will produce — even in dry years,” Dick stated throughout a soil well being tour held on his household farm and sponsored by the South Dakota Farmers Union and the South Dakota Soil Health Coalition was hosted.
Dick raises crops and cattle along with his son Scott. Scott stated that whereas soil well being has at all times been one thing he and Dick thought of — the farm has been direct tilled for greater than 20 years — the males began actually specializing in soil constructing practices about 15 years in the past. Then they turned critical and commenced:
- Introducing cowl crops into their corn and small grain crop rotation
- Revitalizing dung beetle populations by eliminating pour-on fly pesticides funded partially by Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) Conservation Stewardship Programs
- Intensifying grazing rotations by putting in extra fences and water tanks, funded partially via the Environmental Quality Incentive Program
Scott stated the outcomes could possibly be seen throughout the farm – beginning with a rise in natural matter. Organic matter makes up greater than 6 p.c of the farm’s fields.
“More natural matter means we have to apply much less fertilizer to our farmland, and that saves us cash.”
Another price saving is lowered feed prices.
“When I used to be a child, we began feeding hay round Thanksgiving,” Scott stated. “Last winter our cows have been out on the pasture till February 1st – assuming there was no snow on the floor. But even when there may be snow on the floor, the cows dig below the snow to get grass.”
The Kolouseks sometimes plant a various cowl crop combine in wheat stubble in mid-July. And it is prepared and ready after they launch their cows to it after weaning, round the first half of November.
“Compared to grazing on corn stalks, the cows actually thrive on cowl crops,” Scott stated.
Scott and Dick Kolousek increase crops and cattle close to Wessington Springs. Farmers have targeted on soil well being for greater than a decade. They just lately hosted a soil well being tour on their farm.
Photo courtesy of the South Dakota Farmers Union
During the tour, contributors have been pushed to pastures by bus and had the alternative to stroll via crop fields so they might see grazing and crop rotations first hand.
Giving farmers the alternative to see for themselves how soil well being practices work is why the South Dakota Soil Health Coalition (SDSHC) requested to host a tour at Kolousek’s farm.
“Farmers and ranchers are key to enhancing soil well being in South Dakota. Field visits give them the alternative to see the successes and failures of others firsthand and to step again and make their operations extra sustainable,” defined Cindy Zenk, SDSHC coordinator.
When Zenk known as the Kolouseks to ask if SDSHC might host a tour on their land, Scott stated the timing was excellent.
“It was April and the wind blew the earth round – but no soil moved in our fields. I wish to stress that to prevent earth from blowing, it must be coated. Cover crops assist with that,” Scott defined.
The tour started with a precipitation simulator demonstration to clarify the science behind cowl crops’ capacity to carry soil and moisture.
“A raindrop hits the floor at about 15 to twenty miles per hour,” defined Austin Carlson, SDSHC soil well being engineer. “If you may have a rising cowl crop overlaying the soil, the vegetation break up the influence of these raindrops and prevent them from displacing soil particles. Also, the extra typically one thing is actively rising in the soil, the biology of the soil helps bind the soil particles collectively and basically weatherproof it.”
Carlson added that in a wholesome grazing system, wholesome, sturdy root methods help water infiltration.
Practices for constructing a wholesome grazing system have been the focus of a lot tour dialogue. Three years after Rodney Huisman changed steady grazing with rotational grazing on his livestock, the NRCS conservationist for Jerauld County famous a rise of 1,000 kilos of grass per acre.
“The NRCS normal is take half, depart half. This permits the plant leaf to behave like a solar panel to soak up power from the solar via photosynthesis and regenerate itself,” stated Huisman. “It’s not about the grazing days. It’s about the relaxation days. Healthy vegetation equal wholesome soil.”
Three years after Rodney Huisman (far left) changed steady grazing with rotational grazing for his cattle, the NRCS conservationist for Jerauld County famous a rise of 1,000 kilos of grass per acre. During the soil well being tour, contributors have been pushed to the fields by bus to be taught extra about the Kolousek household’s rotational grazing plan.
Photo courtesy of the South Dakota Farmers Union
Forestburg cattleman Joseph Davis agrees. He and his father Jack also use rotational grazing practices and have seen the advantages. Davis stated he took the soil well being tour to get further suggestions to assist him positive-tune their current practices.
“I respect organizations that do excursions like this as a result of it provides me and different producers a chance to choose up some new practices and be taught from specialists and be taught from producers how you can implement completely different practices into their system,” Davis stated.
Providing instructional alternatives for farmers and ranchers in South Dakota is a spotlight of the South Dakota Farmers Union and one in all the causes the group partnered with SDSHC to sponsor the tour, stated Karla Hofhenke, government director of the South Dakota Farmers Union.
“Making instructional alternatives accessible is one in all some ways we work to help our state’s household farmers and ranchers,” Hofhenke stated. “We know that farmers and ranchers haven’t got time, so we’re in search of high quality alternatives, like this Soil Health Tour, to offer them with data to make their time away from the farm or ranch worthwhile.”
To be taught extra about instructional alternatives for South Dakota farm and ranch households and to observe a video of the rain simulator demonstration, go to www.sdfu.org.