Although we may be biased, we feel it is hard to find a career more noble than being stewards of this earth’s beautiful land and caretakers for thousands of precious animals’ lives. Because we take this responsibility so seriously, we are continually evaluating and changing our farming and livestock practices in an effort to improve our world. We would like to share with you a few of our practices that separate us from agricultural norms and aid us in being better stewards and caretakers.
The RAKR Farms team has been no-tilling soybeans since 1991 and corn since 1997. While no-till farming practices have recently become more prevalent, RAKR Farms implemented this strategy long before it was the norm. We began no-till farming for three primary reasons; soil conservation, water quality, and air quality.
No-till means just that, no tillage of the land. Rather than relying on tillage, we rely on earthworms. Earthworm populations continually grow as their environment remains undisturbed. The worm holes can help alleviate compaction issues and create a natural vein for excess surface water to reach our drainage tiles. The worm holes also allow our plant’s roots to have easy access to water as they can quickly travel down the already developed channels to the ground water. Over time, worms even take crop residue below the surface to their burrows.
By not disturbing the established soil structure and leaving the crop residue in place, we can significantly reduce soil erosion caused by water and wind. Not only is erosion by water detrimental to the soil structure, it is also detrimental to water quality. Soil nutrients and applied fertilizers, herbicides, and pesticides can travel with the water/soil mixture and contaminate our water supplies.
When soil sampling, many farmers are interested in the amount of organic matter found in their soil. No-tilling aids in increasing the organic matter found in soil by minimizing soil disturbance. When soil is disturbed it emits carbon. Since carbon accounts for about half of organic matter, we don’t want to lose it, and the ozone does not want it. This carbon-rich environment assists soil microbes in utilizing nutrients and pesticides, lessening the amount that reaches our water supplies.
A 2010 Purdue University study suggests that no-till can significantly reduce nitrous oxide emissions. This study states that “Nitrous oxide is the third-most abundant greenhouse gas in the atmosphere but, according to the U/S/ Environmental Protection Agency, has about 310 times more heat-trapping power than carbon dioxide…” The study goes on to state that a corn-soybean rotation, the primary practice on our farm, also significantly reduces emissions.