Soil health producer says his way of management helps him in difficult times
The record wet year in 2019 left many acres in South Dakota unsuitable for planting, but on Doug Sieck’s cropland near Selby, South Dakota, he was able to plant every acre he wanted to. He attributes that to decades of no till management and the years of cover cropping that have helped build healthy soil. He’s found his land is more resilient when it comes to handling weather extremes – whether drought or heavy rain.
“That resiliency helps to reduce my stress level,” he said. Sure, he worries about the things other farmers worry about – the big one being market prices -but when it comes to whether he’ll get his crop planted or harvested, he has faith in the way he’s managed his land. After about 20 years of no till, cover cropping and incorporating cattle on the landscape, his soil has structure that holds up in wet and dry conditions. The cattle return nutrients for the crop, but they also offer options when nature throws a curve ball.
If he’s unable to plant a field until late in the season, he can plant cover crops that can be hayed or grazed. The cattle also take care of high-moisture corn or damaged stands unfit for harvest. “I can be flexible,” he said. “You don’t feel near as trapped. You don’t feel near as stressed.” A recent survey by the South Dakota Soil Health Coalition showed that farmers who used soil health practices were less stressed, more satisfied and had higher optimism than those who used conventional methods. To read the full survey report or view result highlights visit http://pro.sdsoilhealthcoalition.org/farmer-rancher-stress-survey-results/.
While he has ways of keeping a positive outlook, Sieck, a Soil Health Coalition board member, encourages producers to keep in mind that others may be struggling. “It would be a good year to keep an eye on your neighbor,” Sieck said. Uncertainties surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic have added extra stress to agricultural markets, as well as to our everyday lives. With community activities canceled and families practicing social distancing, Sieck said it can help to share what you’re going through and how COVID has disrupted your life.
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