Series to discuss ways to maintain healthy soil

OSCEOLA COUNTY — While many farmers today can utilize a number of fertilizers and pesticides to help with their crop’s growth, programs of the Osceola-Lake Conservation District are showing people that the if the soil is healthy, those kinds of methods are not needed.

“Our hope is that we can get to show producers how to maintain the soil and help farm in a way that keeps it healthy,” said Greg White, district conservationist for USDA – NRCS. “If we get a couple of farms doing it and they see the benefit of it, hopefully the farmers will want to continue on their own.”

The Osceola County Soil Health Summer Series is a six-part series that aims to demonstrate ways cover crops — which are planted to prevent issues such as soil erosion and maintain soil quality — can improve farm soils and increase productivity.

Though three meetings in the series already have occurred, White said the messages at each meeting are essentially the same.

Each class emphasizes factors of soil health, which is the continued capacity of soil to function as a vital living ecosystem that sustains plants, animals and humans, White said.

This is the first year the department is holding a six-part series on the topic. Registration to attend the classes is not required, and attendees are not required to attend all classes in the series.

The classes consist of informal presentations that discuss what is happening on each farm the series spotlights.

“We’re targeting all types of production,” White said. “There are so many operations that take place, from corn production to beef production. We are trying to target everyone.”

The next class will take place from 1:30 to 3:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Sept. 23, at Thornton’s, 11315 E. 64th St. in Reed City. The class will go over cover crops interseeding in grain crops. Ice cream sundaes will be served.

The first class in October will take place from 6 to 8 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. 9. at Michele and Chad Nicklas’ farm at 16134 Schofield Road in Hersey. The class will discuss cover crop mixes used for extending the fall grazing season of beef cattle and the aerial seeding of cover crops into standing grain crops. Cider and doughnuts will be served.

The final class will take place from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Oct. 21, at Norman’s Vegetable Farm at 22735 20 Mile Road in Tustin. The class will discuss using cover crops as a living mulch in mixed vegetable production. Cider and doughnuts will be served.

“We want to improve the health of the soil,” White said. “I don’t believe that our soil is at an optimal healthy level. Healthy soil can grow crops without tremendous amounts of input – things like fertilizer, pesticides and fuel for tillage. We can reduce the use of all of these by keeping the soil healthy.”

For more information about any of the three remaining classes, contact the Osceola-Lake Conservation District at (231) 832 – 2950.