Crop farmers work directly with the soil so how do they celebrate Earth Day? We have highlighted 5 actions many farmers take to protect their land.
Action One: On Friday we made cover crop monsters at Hiawatha Elementary. Students discovered that cover crops help provide protection and enrichment for soil during the cash crop off-season. In Iowa, rye (grass grown as a grain) is one of the most popular cover crops because of its quick germination. This little cover crop monster is sitting in my windowsill and has started to grow "hair."
Fun fact about cover crops... not only do they protect the soil but they can also provide cattle with another grazing crop! Win Win!
Action two: Some farmers choose to grow GMO crops. GMO stands for genetically modified organism. GMO is not a thing but rather is process. There are only 9 GMO crops currently on our grocery shelves. Arctic Apples (non-browning) have been approved but they are not commercially available yet.
There are many benefits to genetically modifying-
Increase in production
Less food waste (celebrates earth day)
Environment tolerant (less resources)
Insect tolerance (resulting in less pesticides) (celebrates earth day)
Action three: Technology advancements have helped decrease the amount of fertilizer that is applied to fields. GPS systems tell the farmer what areas on a field need more nitrogen and what areas need less. The right rate, time and place allows the farmer to be in control of how much is applied.
Action four: Tillage (overturning the soil) options like reduced tillage, no-till, and strip-till have created an opportunity for farmers to plant new seeds in a field with residue left from the previous year. The Peterson Brothers say it best with their "In Love with the Residue" parody.
Action five: We have seen an increase in conservation efforts across Iowa with added water-ways, buffer zones, terraces, and bio-reactors.
Grass waterways are often installed in low areas where water travels. The goal is to create a natural filter that protects the soil from water erosion.
Buffer zones are sections of grass between a cash crop and body of water. The grass acts as a natural filter. Buffer zones provide a habitat and allow rain water to adsorb into the ground naturally.
Terraces are installed at a slope in a field. Terraces reduce soil erosion.
Bio-reactors are put in place by bodies of water. The underground trench of wood chips help filter the water of nitrate-nitrogen.
Just like you, farmers want their children to grow up in a safe and sustainable environment. How do you plan to celebrate Earth Day? :)
Curious to know how livestock farmers celebrate Earth Day? Checkout Common Ground, a great resource with real conversation. http://findourcommonground.com/