How Farmers Go Green
02/28/2018 10:51AM ● Published by Digital Media Director
By: Hungry for Truth
“I farm some of the same land my grandfather purchased in 1877,” said Thompson.
Thanks to advancements in research and technology, Jeff grows more food using less crop inputs than his grandparents. Growing food sustainably means someday he can pass the family business to his nephew.
Going Green on the Farm
What are some of the ways Jeff goes green? One of the basic practices is rotating corn and soybean crops to make sure the plants don’t deplete the soil of important nutrients. This is like what many gardeners do to keep their seedbeds healthy and productive. He also enriches the soil with manure from a nearby dairy.
Soil sampling is another important part of his sustainability plans. He uses the information to create digital maps of his fields, uploads them into his tractor’s precision technology system, and then applies just the right amount of fertilizer needed to grow his crops. Similar technology in his planter and sprayer ensure he doesn’t waste seed or overspray.
“Today’s farming technology helps me use just the right amount of seed and crop inputs to reduce waste,” said Thompson.
Like most farmers in South Dakota, Thompson plants seeds developed through biotechnology that are resistant to the pesticides he sprays. This way he kills the weeds while the seeds flourish. GMO seeds also require less water, meaning they can tolerate dry weather to reduce or eliminate irrigation.
Doing More with Less
Conservation tillage helps Thompson protect his most valuable resource: the soil. Too much tillage can lead to soil erosion, so he skips it in the fall and just plants a new crop in the spring. Less tillage helps him keep more soil in his fields and fuel in his tank.
He’s not alone. Today, 63 percent of U.S. farmers practice conservation tillage, up from 36 percent 20 years ago. According to a report released by Field to Market, the Keystone Alliance for Sustainable Agriculture, farmers have also reduced soil erosion over the past 30 years by 47 to 67 percent, and greenhouse gas emissions by 15 to 42 percent depending on the type of crop grown.
Thompson has also reduced his liquid petroleum usage by upgrading his corn dryer to an energy-efficient version. He uses the dryer in the fall to reduce moisture in his corn before storing or selling it. Since building it two years ago, he has cut his liquid petroleum use in half.
Read more stories about how farmers are going green in South Dakota by visiting HungryForTruthSD.com.