So here comes another “Earth Day” or for those of us who remember “Arbor Day.” What are you going to do for this roundish ball we live on that floats in the galaxy? Plant a tree? Weed your flower bed? Pick up trash? Or, take a walk through a forested park?
On the farms and ranches of the USA we celebrate Earth Day 24/7, 365 days a year, and have been for centuries. From our indigenous people who cross-pollinated to create sturdier and healthier crops, to the farmers and ranchers who sustain us today; it is a full-time effort to treat our environment kindly with a look towards feeding people in the future.
Here are just some of the developments that have happened during my life in the agriculture industry.
Crop rotation has been a concept on small irrigated farm land since I was a wee girl. Many days were spent rolling, wet hay bales so that they could dry out after a rain. While that hay crop was never a big money-maker, it put nitrogen back in the soil for our beet and corn crops. Each year the landscape changed with each rotation of crop sites, which then sprang forth a new life. Today this concept has been adapted to larger dry land fields with pea and lentil crops restoring soil health and decreasing disease in our wheat and barley fields.
Today, I remember of my dad coming in from the fields covered in dust, on windy Spring days. The first adaptation we made was to change to strip farming. Strips of plowed and unplowed land, side-by-side, which helped to keep the topsoil where it was needed. Those bleak stubbly winter fields have a purpose. Today, Conservation tillage, which reduces erosion and uses less energy, has grown from 17% of acreage in 1982, to 63% of today’s acreage. Our County Extension Service Agencies, have promoted and helped to implement this as a common practice. And, in some areas of our country have opperated at 100% no-tillage, for the last 15 years.
Since 1982, the United States has reduced by 70 million, the number of acres used as crop land. New developments in crop genetics, coming from our land colleges and other partners in agriculture, continually improve on the ancient practices of hybridism and have gone a long way in improving crop health and productivity.
We all think Google maps is a great app on your iPhone. It allows people to travel almost anywhere, get there in less time, and plan your route according to food, rest, and site-seeing preferences. The GPS in our field equipment has helped us be more precise in the application of chemicals and fertilizers; reducing the amount used and applying it only to the ground where it is most beneficial. The improvements in machinery and understanding of chemicals and fertilizers have refined both the amount and strengths of additives farmers rely on to insure profitability.
So, welcome and join us on the farms and ranches across America in celebrating Earth Day. We all win when everyone commits to keeping earth a safe and healthy place for us to work, live and play.