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Keith Badger, an Ottawa Coop member, grows corn and soybeans with his brother in East Central Kansas. Since Keith graduated from Kansas State University and returned to the farm full-time in the early 1980’s, a lot has changed in agriculture. For Keith, continuing to change with the industry, while also challenging the ways things have always been done, has been key. Keith’s approach to soil health, keeping both profitability and sustainability at the forefront, has been one of the most beneficial changes.
On their farm, Keith has always tried to minimize tillage, but last year, he began to notice a significant difference between fields that had been tilled ahead of planting and those that were completely no-till. The soils that were not tilled visibly held and retained water better. After seeing this difference, Keith and his brother began to utilize 100% no-till on soybean ground and strip-till on corn ground.
Moisture management hasn’t been the only benefit they have experienced from the changes in tillage. “No-till and strip-till have really reduced the amount of disturbance to the soil,” Keith reported. “Some of our soils can be pretty fragile and very easily broken away in heavy rain events, but we’ve really been able to cut down on the damage to the soil significantly.”
Keith has been impressed by how well their soils now hold nutrients, resulting in lower input costs. “With the reduction in soil loss and erosion, you’re not losing soil and you’re now retaining nutrients,” Keith explained. “If you lose sediment, you lose phosphorus. Because of less soil loss from the fields, our productivity has grown.”
In addition to implementing no-till and strip-till, Keith also uses variable rate technology to apply nutrients and has been gradually introducing cover crops on his farm. Through all of these practices, he stresses how keeping nutrients where they are applied is the most important thing to their farm and how these practices even influence consumers’ perception of farming.
“What’s big for us is the retention of nutrients in the soils,” Keith said. “That’s how were going to have to stay profitable - by not watching the dollars we spend wash into the streams. I also have been aware of public perception that agriculture can be insensitive to water quality issues. By being proactive on that and by being responsible with our management practices, we get to start the conversation, not defend ourselves.”
While using these and other conservation practices on his farm, Keith has leveraged the Truterra™ Insights Engine, a digital stewardship tool made available to growers through Ottawa’s partnership with Truterra, LLC. Farmers like Keith, with the help of their ag retailer, can use the insights engine to generate customized, data-driven recommendations about how to improve on each field, based on both environmental indicators and by tracking against yield and return on investment.
Keith was first interested in Truterra’s ties with conservation programs and the data that it offers on the specific soil type and slope of each field. “I am really immersed in resource conservation right now and I think Truterra is an interesting platform,” Keith said. “I want to see where it is going to go.”
Interested in learning more about the Truterra™ Insights Engine or sustainability? Contact Lindsey at the Co-op for more information 785-242-5170 ext. 203 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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It's never too early to discuss a project, or to consider the sustainability posibilities for your organization.