Kansas farmer Mitchell Baalman was in the spotlight on Tuesday as his farm, FDK Partnership, was the first of six that are part of The Mosaic Company's Pursuit of 300 Farm Tour, which will take place over the next 10 days in six states, highlighting the company's effort to increase yields to 300 bushels of corn per acre.
To Kansas farmers, Baalman is known not only for his innovation and willingness to try to things to improve the agronomics, economics and efficiency of his farming operations, but as the leader of the Sheridan Six, the state’s first Local Enhanced Management Area for water conservation.
Making the Ogalalla Aquifer last to provide irrigation for new generations of western Kansas farmers is a cause near and dear to Baalman’s heart.
The Baalman operation gets help from multiple generations, including Mitchell’s parents, uncle, nephews and cousins. Mitchell says he has four great reasons to want to see a sustainable future for western Kansas agriculture and their names are Aidan, Miles, Tucker and Kendall.
FDK Partnership farms about 12,000 acres, both irrigated and dryland, near Hoxie. Baalman said he is blessed with an excellent water source for many of those acres. He irrigates about 3,000 acres in a corn and soybean rotation and has about 9,000 acres of dryland wheat, corn and soybeans. He expects a harvest of about 265 to 270 bushels of corn per acre on the Pursuit field.
Baalman’s courage and leadership in water conservation is admirable. Taking a stand for reducing water consumption and reduced water rights takes conviction and courage -- and any Kansas farmer who has taken that stand knows that it comes with some consequences.
Baalman says he gets that courage from looking into the faces of the children that he hopes will be the next generation of farmers in the FDK Partnership. He knows that without conservation today, there will be no water tomorrow. Even with conservation, he says, many Kansas farmers will be forced to farm more dryland acres as the water table declines. If corn per acre yields are to increase, new techniques and new technologies are essential.
Baalman’s Pursuit of 300 field of 122 acres is in Thomas County, on the west side of the gravel road that marks the county line between Thomas and Sheridan counties. The irrigated field east of the road is in Sheridan County and is part of the LEMA that reduces water usage by 20%.
The reality of living with water reduction, Baalman says, is that you become more aware of all the things it takes to improve yields – management, nutrients, pest control, timing – and all the things that can be learned from other people who have experienced success in some of those areas.
And that is why, says Mitchell Baalman, that he believes in the collaborative, conversational, sharing approach that The Mosaic Company is taking in Pursuit of 300 bushels of corn per acre.