John Anderson of Winters has gradually switched from leasing cropland to growing native grasses, sedges and forbs. A veterinarian by trade, he dabbled in growing natives for several years in the 1990s, then “started getting serious in 1996,” he says.
Everywhere you look their land is protected with terraces and no-till farming. Robert and Roger Cerven’s corn and soybean land in Montgomery County oozes conservation.
No matter what time of year you drive by Norman Schue’s farm, you’re going to see grass. It will either be on the hillsides as hay and grazing land, or else in waterways that carry water down through the farm where gullies would otherwise run. And you’ll also find grass in filter strips along ditches and creeks that cross his property.
A sign on Jim Day’s barn near Salem proclaims that he’s a River Friendly Farmer. It’s an award promoted by soil and water conservation districts that’s bestowed on several dozen farmers each year. Usually new recipients are recognized during the Indiana State Fair.
Not everyone reads the instruction manuals that come with new things. Some people don’t pay attention to the advice of technical experts, either. Usually, those people get burned. Once in a while they get lucky.
Strategically placed strips and patches of prairie grass are showing promise as a new tool to reduce soil erosion and nutrient loss on sloping crop fields, with a bonus benefit of big gains in biodiversity.
The first look many Hoosiers got at two-stage ditches was at a field day in Pulaski County. Since then, the concept has caught on. The Nature Conservancy estimates the practice has been implemented at 26 sites in Indiana, covering more than 10 miles of ditch.
Buffers are on the minds of Western farmers and ranchers these days, but as some zone off their first riparian protection lands, there is little understanding on how to maintain the new barriers.
The Marion County Soil and Water Conservation District just announced its “Stop That Dirt —Erosion Watch Campaign.” While the majority of Marion County is now urban, that doesn’t mean it’s immune to soil erosion issues.