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Field Conservation
Family tradition

Contour strips that were laid out on 183 acres in 1944 are still there on Dan and Sherry Hanson’s farm. Dan’s grandfather worked with the Soil and Water Conservation Service back then in developing a conservation plan for the rolling landscape on the family’s Fillmore County farm.

How to reduce your sediment losses

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.

Dream come true

Capturing the saga of Greene County’s Goose Pond would require a huge book. It’s a story of tremendous potential, bitter disappointment, drama, intrigue, politics and destiny. At least now the conclusion of this story is clear. Restoration of more than 7,000 acres of constructed wetlands is finally complete.

Sandhill cranes have a new home

Indiana has 1% more net wetlands than it did before Goose Pond and Beehunter Marsh were restored. That makes Jane Hardisty smile. She’s the state conservationist for the Natural Resources Conservation Service.

Look to USDA for conservation help

If you’re thinking about doing some conservation work on your land, you’d do well to visit the USDA Service Center that serves your area. You can get both financial and technical assistance. Depending on your situation and what you want to do, one can be just as valuable as the other.

Conservation plan needs cooperation

USDA’s new Conservation Stewardship Program, or CSP, is an incremental improvement that represents learning from past farm programs. The new CSP is a “green payments” type of program that offers extraordinary opportunity, especially if farmers talk it over with their landlords about the land they manage together.

Coordination of cover crops has benefits

High prices of fuel and fertilizer have pushed us to take a serious look at cover crops for our farm. Cover crops can do a lot of good things, such as helping prevent soil erosion, increase organic matter, fix atmospheric nitrogen, recycle nutrients and provide grazing.

Prescribed burns aid brush management

JA Ranch managers are examining fire results to see how prescribed fires can be used for brush control in their property management.

Manage pastures to boost good grass

Good grass and cattle are at the heart of Texas and Southwest agriculture.

Ranchers and hunters help one another

Cattle, conservation and hunting are all intertwined on the Besler Ranch near Bison, S.D.

Check on your waterways

Mid to late summer is a good time to check on grassed waterways, if you haven’t already inspected them. Look for eroding channels or areas filled in with sediment.

Huge tract will stay farmland forever

One of the largest private landholdings in Indiana has a new owner. Juanita Waugh bequeathed 7,600 acres to St. Joseph’s College at Rennselaer. Waugh, Brookston, passed away in 2010.

No one will ever build houses here

The late Juanita Waugh, Brookston, was so adamant that her 7,600 acres remain as farmland that she took two separate steps. First, she instructed her attorney to word the deed so that the farm could never be sold. Second, she sought to place it in a conservation easement.

Knox City Plant Materials Center expands its role

Some 45 years since its opening, the James E. “Bud” Smith Plant Materials Center at Knox City, Texas, continues to do vital work.

Erosion fight goes back decades

Mark Lawson’s dad, now deceased, carried a petition to form the Hendricks County soil and water conservation district. The Soil Conservation Service started 75 years ago, but farmers soon realized USDA needed help bringing soil
erosion under control.

Boggs paragon of lake protectors

Joe and Joanie Boggs of Weldon were selected as Rathbun Lake Protectors by the Rathbun Land and Water Alliance several years ago for their actions to protect Rathbun Lake, the water source for 80,000 people in southern Iowa and northern Missouri. They continue to help carry out the mission of saving soil and protecting water quality.

Talking tiling

Brian Hefty is co-host of the TV show “Ag PhD”; a Baltic, S.D., farmer; and a seed and chemical retailer. He’s also an advocate for tiling and has spoken to several farm groups in the Dakotas this summer about tiling. He also recently made a presentation to a South Dakota legislative committee. Here he answers some reader's questions.

Texas rancher and NRCS work together to survive drought

Landowners and producers in Texas never could have predicted 2011’s severe drought conditions that impacted small and large operations alike.

Clean nitrates from tile water

Denitrifying bioreactors — underground trenches filled with wood chips in farm fields — are still few and far between.

CSP rewards farmers’ good stewardship

When Brent and Teresa Voss moved to rural Dexter in 1994, they viewed it as more of a place to settle their concrete and foundation business than to develop a large farming operation. But that soon changed. Just a week after buying their home property, they bought a nearby 80 acres of farmland.

Sustainable snapshots

Producers such as Jay Hardwick are walking softly on the ground that provides them with a living and giving society the benefit of sustainable commodity crop production.

NRCS sets 8 priorities for funds

To better distribute federal dollars, Nebraska conservation folks have identified eight “primary resource concerns” in the state.

Bird’s-eye view on conservation

In May this year federal conservation officials will begin a statewide effort to conduct conservation compliance reviews using aerial photography. After piloting a similar project last year in two of the agency’s five administrative areas, officials with the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service have expanded the project to all tracts randomly selected for annual conservation compliance reviews.

Smaller farms also need help in conservation

Most full-time farmers in Iowa who make a living from their land have a relationship with their local soil and water conservation district and USDA agencies. Even those with smaller farms know where to get conservation help and have used technical and cost-share assistance programs for the most part, a Wallace’s Farmer survey confirmed last year.

Cover crops shield soil in storms

The recent mid-April storm reminded many southern Iowa farmers why there is never a good time for tillage — even after a dry winter and the warmest March on record. Up to 8 inches of rain, along with strong winds and tornadoes, hit southern Iowa on April 14, causing property and cropland damage. In many cases, crop inputs like corn seed and fertilizer washed away.

Farmland protection stalling

According to new statistics released by the Farmland Information Center of American Farmland Trust, or AFT, efforts by state governments to protect agricultural land through purchase of agricultural conservation easement, or PACE, programs stalled despite an apparent increase in total acres protected.

Water source never dries up on this farm

Stand at the edge of Ralph and Marvin Biehle’s grain setup, and you look down over a small valley and up toward the next hill. Pasture extends down the hill, with barns and silos on the other side. Far off in the distance is a cornfield. And behind it is one of the most important resources on the farm — a pond.

Use cover crops to protect, improve soil

One of the most important crops is the one not to harvest, but to protect and improve the soil.

Land management key, farmer says

The way Linda Fisher sees it, raising cattle these days is as much about land/crop management as actual care of the animals.

Cattle, wildlife click

Cattle and wildlife work splendidly for Rick Hanson and business partner Matt Matthews on the Merrick Davis Ranch operated by their H&M Cattle Co. in Shackelford County, Texas.

Shearing sheep for five generations

If Carvel Cheves ever wondered if he was in the right profession, he got his answer with some “homegrown archaeology.”

Mission impossible: Reinvent this field

Don Biehle waited a long time to convert a piece of land the Southeastern Purdue Agricultural Center acquired a few years ago into useful land. The SEPAC superintendent planned to install pattern drainage in zones with water control structures, establish wetland habitat around the irregular borders of the wooded field and restore a wetland. But the project scheduled for August 2009 was scrubbed when Mother Nature dumped several inches of rain on the farm near Butler

A lighter ‘fieldprint’

The good story that farmers have to tell will soon be as visible as the footprint they leave on a field.

Refuges evaluate efficacy of traits

Since corn hybrids containing biotechnology traits for European corn borer were introduced in 1996, a refuge of non-Bt corn consisting of 20% of the acreage has been required within a half-mile of the Bt corn. In 2003, with Bt corn rootworm hybrids, the 20% refuge remained, with the non-Bt refuge required within or adjacent to the field.

Wider headers mean uneven residue

One new product uncovered at the 2010 Farm Progress Show was a head carrier for a 45-foot grain head. When the sales rep was asked what he would do when they built a 60-foot head, he threw up his hands and said he would retire first!

Beating cedars with teamwork

Cedar trees are encroaching on grazing land in Boyd County and around the state at a rate that Jim Mathine, Natural Resources Conservation Service district conservationist, calls “alarming.” This is especially true in areas choked with small cedars.

$40 no-till weed control is doable

Keeping tight crop budgets in mind, this fourth Q&A series article tackles herbicide costs, Russell McLucas, a Pennsylvania No-Till Alliance board member, and Del Voight, Penn State Extension grain-crop specialist, address concerns and what works. McLucas, past chairman of the Pennsylvania Corn Growers Association and a 30-year veteran no-tiller, farms near McConnellsburg, Pa.

Soil erosion not welcome here

The Indiana Association of Soil and Water Conservation Districts recently honored five outstanding families. Each received a Conservation Farmer of the Year award.

Wetland miracle unfolds in Greene County

The battle between nature and man went on for more than a century on some 8,000 acres of mostly flat, wet land in Greene County. Even if you’ve never been there, odds are you’ve heard stories about Goose Pond. It was a favorite stopover for geese before farmers tried to drain it.