By Steve Richter, agricultural strategies director, The Nature Conservancy
Members of Lafayette Ag Stewardship Alliance complete a survey each winter to gauge interest in soil health practices. It’s an annual recap of the number of farmers using conservation practices on their fields and a tally of total acres of each practice. In this article, I’ll share some highlights from 2019. In your next newsletter, I will talk more specifically about how the practices farmers are using are keeping soil and phosphorus from entering our waters.
I first want to say that it was great to see the progress that member farmers made in 2019 trying new practices and increasing the acres of other conservation practices, as well as the robust attendance figures seen at field days and winter meetings. Congrats to all of you who hosted or attended an event and/or used conservation practices in 2019! One take-away I had from reviewing the numbers is that more farmers are using conservation practices, and the total number of acres increased.
Lafayette Ag Stewardship Alliance farmers had 15,085 acres of fields planted with no till in 2019, an increase of 2,547 acres from the 2018 survey. Nineteen of the 24 farmers who filled out the survey are using no till. Add to this 8,455 acres planted with strip/conservation tillage. And, 5,305 acres of cover crops were planted in 2019 by 17 of the 24 farmers. One practice that attracted greater attention in 2019 was manure management as low disturbance manure injection was used on 4,000 acres. There were 22,377 acres under nutrient management plans, an addition of 3,400 acres from 2018. Of note, 22 of the 24 farmers completing the survey used grass waterways, and harvestable buffer acres jumped from 60 to 400 acres.
It’s great to see so many farmers completing the annual survey. The numbers demonstrate the effort farmers are making to improve soil health and reduce soil and nutrients leaving fields.