Regenerative Agriculture: Easy 1st Steps for Landowners
By Shelley Swearingen – May 4, 2020
Landowners who own farms in the Midwest have a great opportunity to take the first steps to sustainability, improving water quality and the value of their soils. It all starts with a conversation.
“84% of Non operating landowners indicate that soil productivity is a very important quality for a farm operator.” – American Farmland Trust and Utah State survey
One of the best steps a landowner can take is a conversation about long-term leases – with yearly reviews of cash rent rates. Long-term soil health is key to improved land values, and a longer term lease is vital to this win-win partnership.
Regenerative Agriculture (also known as ‘biological farming’) improves soil health and reverses effects of climate change and human intervention. Soil is damaged from chemicals, fertilizer, and tilling. Regenerative Agriculture includes practices that farmers, ranchers, and foresters implement to restore the earth to its natural state. Mother Nature managed to regulate soil quality prior to human involvement and these standards bring the earth closer to what one would see in a natural habitat. These practices foster improved yields without the use of harmful chemicals.
Best practices include:
- No tilling or minimum tillage
When soil is tilled, it is exposed to oxygen and carbon dioxide. The introduction of oxygen to the soil actually decomposes the bacteria and microorganisms in the soil needed for plant growth. Also, soil holds aggregates together and tilling breaks these aggregates apart. Aggregates keep crops from decomposing in the ground, provide nutrients, hold water, and provide support for the plant & its roots.
Advantages to no till/minimum till
- No moisture lost
- No time spent tilling fields
- No diesel fuel spent running tilling machinery
- Helps microbial life thrive
What happens when you till video:
Video on minimal tillage:
- No artificial or synthetic fertilizers
The use of fake fertilizers destroys the natural community of bacteria and other microscopic organisms that organically supplement the soil. These fertilizers create crops that are less resilient than a naturally born plant, and make the agroecosystem dependent on artificial influence.
Alternatives to artificial or synthetic fertilizers:
- Cover crops
- Crop rotations
- Animal manure
- Cover crops
Cover crops are planted between cash crops and improves the soil quality by acting as a natural compost & fertilizing the ground. These crops are planted after harvesting the cash crop. Cover crops also reduce soil compaction, protect the soil from wind & water erosion, fix nitrogen, and produce forage/pasture for livestock.
- Brassicas: canola, radishes, etc.
- Crimson clover
- Cereal rye
Video on benefits of cover crops in no-till system
- Prescribed grazing & Pasture Management
Prescribed grazing is the monitoring and controlling of where cattle are grazing. This occurs by dividing the grazing land into small pastures and rotating animals from pasture to pasture. This increases forage, improves herd health, limits runoff, protects water quality, and decreases feed cost. This enables the soil’s ability to retain moisture and nutrients as well. The manure produced by livestock creates a natural fertilizer, as well.
Prescribed grazing video:
Pasture Management video:
There are multiple financial assistance programs provided by the USDA to help implement these practices. You can find a list of these programs here: https://www.nrcs.usda.gov/wps/portal/nrcs/main/national/programs/financial/ .
One local farmer uses these conservation techniques, and was profiled by the USDA in a short video.
Profile in soil health: Dan DeSutter from Attica, Indiana
The popular podcast Field Work, recently featured Rick Clark of Clark Farm & Cattle in Williamsport, Indiana who practices regenerative farm management on 7,000 acres of land in West Central, Indiana. Clark farms will soon be certified organic.
Highlights from Clark Farm & Cattle
- 50% reduction in fuel use (approx. $35,000 in annual savings)
- 100% reduction in Synthetic Nitrogen, Lime and Potash, while the farm naturally maintains a 6.8 to 7 in soil sample tests
Four (4) Passes on the Farm each year:
- Air Seeding of Cover Crops
- Crimper Roller Pass
- Spring Planting Pass
- Harvest with Combine
Landowners who are seeking to improve conservation, sustainability and improve the value of their soil can work with their farmer tenants to develop a strategy that creates healthy soil, while retaining healthy returns on the land investment.
Soil preservation and land conservation have long lasting effects. The practices can help you maintain the value of your land for future generations. At Geswein Farm & Land, we’re here to help you build your legacy. We’ve assisted farmers, ranchers, foresters, and agricultural entrepreneurs meet and exceed goals. We also help connect landowners with farm tenants to preserve soil quality and improve land values.
“Preserve the soil and preserve your wealth for generations.” – Johnny Klemme
Curious about what your land is worth?
How well is your land being managed?
Contact Johnny Klemme at (765) 427-1619 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
To begin discussing how you can implement these practices, contact a local Farm Service Agency Center. You can find a list of local centers in our previous blog: https://prairiefarmland.com/conservation-grants-landowner-tenant-partnerships/