The Kolousek family shares how soil health extends the grazing season and prevents soil from blowing away

If you care for the soil, it’s going to care for you, defined Dick Kolousek, a fourth-generation farmer in Wessington Springs.

“The extra we are able to do to maintain the soil productive, the extra the soil will produce — even in dry years,” Dick stated throughout a soil health tour held on his family 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 health 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 to essentially give attention to soil constructing practices about 15 years in the past. Then they turned critical and started:

• Introduction of catch crops in the maize and small grain crop rotation

• Revitalizing dung beetle populations by eliminating pour-on fly pesticides, funded partially by the Natural Resources Conservation Service’s (NRCS) Conservation Stewardship Programs

• Increasing grazing rotation by the set up of extra fences and water tanks, funded partially by the Environmental Quality Incentive Program

A rainfall simulator confirmed farmers and ranchers how soil health improves water infiltration and prevents runoff throughout the Soil Health Tour at the Kolousek family farm close to Wessington Springs. Austin Carlson, SDSHC Soil Health Engineer (left) and Stan Boltz, NRCS Regional Soil Health Specialist, talk about the findings and reply individuals’ questions. SDFU
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Scott stated the outcomes may very well be seen throughout the farm – beginning with a rise in natural matter. Organic matter makes up greater than six p.c of the farm’s fields. “More natural matter means we needn’t apply as a lot fertilizer to our farmland – and that saves us cash.”

Another price saving is decreased 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’s snow on the floor, the cows dig underneath 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 once 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.

During the tour, individuals have been coached to pastures and had the alternative to stroll by crop fields so they may see grazing and crop rotations firsthand.

Giving farmers the alternative to see for themselves how soil health practices work is why the South Dakota Soil Health Coalition (SDSHC) requested to host a tour at Kolousek’s farm.

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 health tour, individuals have been pushed to the fields by bus to be taught extra about the Kolousek family’s rotational grazing plan. SDFU
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“Farmers and ranchers are key to enhancing soil health 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 may host a tour on their land, Scott stated the timing was good.

“It was April and the wind blew the earth round – however no soil moved in our fields. I wish to stress that to forestall earth from blowing, it must be lined. Cover crops assist with that,” Scott defined.

The tour started with a precipitation simulator demonstration to clarify the science behind cowl crops’ potential to carry soil and moisture.

“A raindrop hits the floor at about 15 to twenty miles per hour,” defined Austin Carlson, SDSHC soil health engineer. “If you’ve gotten a rising cowl crop overlaying the soil, the vegetation break up the impression of these raindrops and stop them from displacing soil particles. Also, the extra usually one thing is actively rising in the soil, the biology of the soil helps bind the soil particles collectively and primarily weatherproof it.”

Carlson added that in a wholesome grazing system, wholesome, sturdy root programs assist 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 customary is take half, go away half. This permits the plant leaf to behave like a solar panel to soak up vitality from the solar by photosynthesis and regenerate itself,” stated Huisman. “It’s not about the grazing days. It’s about the relaxation days. Healthy vegetation equal wholesome soil.”

Forestburg cattleman Joseph Davis agrees. He and his father Jack additionally use rotational grazing practices and have seen the advantages. Davis stated he took the soil health tour to get extra suggestions to assist him fine-tune their current practices.

“I recognize organizations that do excursions like this as a result of it provides me and different producers a possibility to select up some new practices and be taught from consultants and be taught from producers how to implement totally different practices into their system,” Davis stated.

Providing academic alternatives for farmers and ranchers in South Dakota is a spotlight of the South Dakota Farmers Union and one in every of the causes the group partnered with SDSHC to sponsor the tour, stated Karla Hofhenke, government director of the South Dakota Farmers Union.

“Making academic alternatives accessible is one in every of some ways we work to assist our state’s family farmers and ranchers,” Hofhenke stated. “We know that farmers and ranchers do not have 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 academic alternatives provided to farm and ranch households in South Dakota and to look at a video of the rainfall simulator demonstration, go to and click on on this text in the press launch at News and Events tab.

Scott and Dick Kolousek elevate crops and cattle close to Wessington Springs. Farmers have centered on soil health for greater than a decade. They lately hosted a soil health tour on their farm. SDFU
courtesy photograph

– Farmers Union of South Dakota

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