Did you know South Dakota’s farmers and ranchers are some of the most proactive in the nation when it comes to on-farm sustainability? South Dakota leads the U.S. with 7 million acres of farmland enrolled in the USDA’s Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP). That’s 1 million more acres than any other state.
Sustainability grows strong in South Dakota, which is good for farmers and families. According to information collected through CSP during the past five years, farmers and ranchers adopted environmentally friendly practices that reduced pesticide drift on 1.7 million acres, increased the use of no-till farming on 1.5 million acres and grew cover crop acres on a total of 300,000 acres.
Crop rotation, no-till farming and cover crops are a few of the top techniques used by farmers to improve productivity and grow and raise healthy food. Let’s learn more.
Farmers plant different crops on different acres each season to avoid depleting the soil of nutrients. Crop rotation also helps control weeds, diseases and pests. By planting soybeans one year and corn the next, farmers use less pesticides and replenish their soils.
No till is a form of conservation tillage that allows farmers to grow crops or pasture without disturbing the soil by plowing. Farmers plant the crop, harvest it and leave the stalks and roots in place through the winter months. The next season, they plant a new crop in the same field. The stalks and roots feed worms and beneficial bugs, which enrich the soil. Keeping the ground covered also reduces erosion from wind and rain, and limits weed growth.
Cover crops are seeded after harvesting and before planting. They help prevent soil erosion, keep weeds from growing and provide beneficial nutrients to help other crops grow. Some types of cover crops are radishes, alfalfa, red clover and rye grass. Farmers can plant cover crops using a planter, drill or by flying over the fields with an airplane.
These are just some of the ways farmers protect and preserve the land for the next generation. Find out how Paul Casper uses sustainable practices to support outdoor adventures on his farm.