Talking about farming

January 2, 2019

Those interested in learning about sustainable farming in rural Nebraska are in luck.

The Nebraska Extension office in Columbus and the Natural Resources Conservation Service will be hosting a Cover Crop Management Day to talk about sustainable farming practices and how to implement them.

It’s set to take place from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. on Jan. 16 at Ag Park, 822 15th St. in Columbus. The event will touch upon cover crops, residue management, soil health, crop rotation and grazing. Registration is $10 and can be done either online at https://goo.gl/forms/K9kR5x6LJVvfqgU72 or by phone at 402-563-4901. Lunch will be provided.

Don Gasper has been growing cover crops in his fields for the last six years. He said as he ages, it’s getting harder to effectively plow his fields. By utilizing cover crops, he said he’s been able to make better use of his soil and limit tillage by growing milo, a type of grain.

“I worked it to death and all I did was dry up my ground,” Gasper said about the way he used to manage his fields before utilizing cover crops. “Now I plant it, spray it a couple of times, and I’ll harvest it. How much easier could it be?”

Gasper teamed up with Megan Taylor, a Nebraska Extension educator for crops and water systems in Platte, Boone, and Nance counties, and and Eric Smith, of NRCS, to put the event together. Smith said growing cover crops has increased in popularity in recent years and can prevent soil erosion.

“I think over the past five to eight years, cover cropping has really taken off,” Smith said. “There seems to be a lot of interest in it right now.”

Taylor said plants like rye, wheat, barley and oats can help with sustainable farming. Taylor said while the startup costs for cover crops may be higher, they can reap long-term benefits.

“The big goal is to really help producers in Platte County, Nance County, Boone County, really any of these surrounding counties to be more sustainable,” Taylor said. “To really be able to integrate cover crops in a way that’s more profitable and also help with water retention as well as soil conversation.”

The event’s two guest speakers will be Dr. Dwayne Beck and Dr. Daren Redfearn. Beck is a research manager at Dakota Lakes Research Farm in South Dakota. He currently works as a professor in the Plant Science Department at South Dakota State University. Redfearn is an associate professor at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s Department of Agronomy and Horticulture.

“The biggest thing I hope they take away is how to integrate it into their systems,” Taylor said about the event. “So whether it’s really small scale with one field that has cereal rye or whether it’s long-term going into no-till or even something as simple as I can graze my corn stocks, really long term how can I make my farm more sustainable in a changing climate.”

Eric Schucht is a reporter for The Columbus Telegram. Reach him via email at eric.schucht@lee.net.

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