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Dig it! The secrets of soil

Posted

2006 -World population reaches 6.5 billion!

1903 - Orville Wright makes first successful airplane flight.

1803 - Louisiana Territory purchased by U.S.!

1776 - Continental Congress adopts Declaration of Independence!

1607 - John Smith settles first permanent American colony at Jamestown, Virginia!

1512 - Michaelangelo finishes painting the Sistine Chapel!

What do all these great moments in history have to do with conservation?

They all occurred in the time it took to form just 1 inch of topsoil!

Yes, believe it or not, it takes approximately 500 years for the Earth’s natural processes to create 1 inch of this precious, life supporting soil. What does this mean to us? First of all, it proves how valuable topsoil is to the survival of mankind and secondly we begin to understand how important it is for us to protect and conserve it in every possible way.

Topsoil is so important because it provides virtually all the food and shelter we rely on for survival and I’m fairly certain none of us have an extra 500 years to wait for a new inch to form. We must strive to become the best stewards we can be of this precious and non-renewable natural resource.

Farmers and ranchers are the ultimate stewards of our natural resources and thanks to the Jackson County Conservation District, they have the opportunity to implement conservation technologies to protect these resources and conserve energy at the same time. Two of these practices for conserving natural resources and energy are Irrigation Water Management and No-Till farming. Both of these practices are responsible for saving thousands of tons of topsoil each year while conserving and protecting fresh water supplies.

Irrigation Water Management is very important because fresh water is quickly becoming one of our most critical natural resource issues. Also, irrigation is essential for agriculture to meet our food and fiber production needs. Irrigation water management encourages the application of water in the amount that meets the need of the growing plant in a manner that avoids extended soil saturation and runoff.

In the past seven years, farmers in the Lugert-Altus Irrigation District have used cost-share funds from the EQIP program to convert over 140,000 acres of conventional flood irrigation to subsurface drip systems saving huge amounts of water and completely eliminating irrigation induced erosion. Subsurface drip systems allow farmers the option of converting their conventional tilled and flooded irrigated acres to No-Till.

In a conventional flood irrigation system, certain tillage practices have to be performed in order to create watering furrows. This causes soil disturbance and encourages irrigation-induced erosion. This erosion slowly destroys the watering furrows causing the farmers to have to repeat this tillage practice two or three more times, which then brings about even more erosion.

No-Till farming is a practice that leaves the crop residue undisturbed on the surface of the soil from harvest through planting which minimizes soil disturbance. Crop residue is plant material such as stalks, stubble and leaves that are left in the field after the previous crop has been harvested. Good residue management can increase irrigation efficiency and reduce or control erosion. No-Till also can be used for almost any crop in almost any soil and it reduces fuel and labor costs. It is a sound investment for the environment and the farm. Some of the environmental benefits of no-till farming include increased: organic matter, carbon storage, earthworm activity, water intake and it improves wildlife habitat. The Jackson County Conservation District currently has no-till drills that they make available to local producers to encourage them to experiment with no-till farming.

Also, famers willing to experiment with no-till can apply for incentive payments through the EQIP program which will help offset some of their start-up costs. The conservation district has since purchased a larger drill to make implementing this practice more feasible. As farmers try no-till, they begin to realize the environmental and financial benefits of this farming technique.

These are just some of the ways that the Jackson County Conservation District proves their commitment to protecting our precious water and topsoil and putting conservation on the land.

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By Kortni Morris

Navajo FFA

(During the recent Farm Week sponsored by the Altus Chamber of Commerce, the Jackson County Conservation District named winners in a speech contest about the district. Kortni Morris of the Navajo FFA gave this speech during the Farm City Awards banquet.)

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