While much of the world will celebrate Earth Day on Friday, farmers will continue doing their part to preserve the soil, grass and water every day before and after April 22. That’s because crop and livestock producers pioneered the act of protecting our natural resources.
There was talk last week of another Dust Bowl on the southern plains, where much of Texas and parts of Oklahoma, Colorado, New Mexico and Kansas are still drying up. The worst drought in over 40 years has spawned wildfires that have smoldered hundreds of thousands of acres. There have been many dust storms. But because of years and even decades of conservation tillage and other land-friendly practices, much more soil has stayed put despite winds that seem to never cease.
And while red flag warnings are out over most of west Texas, flooding and the chance for more of it after record snows is drowning the hopes of many northern farmers hoping to get their crops planted on time. Runoff from fields will be of dire concern. However, if not for carefully planned use of tile and other water-management sources, runoff into stream and rivers would be much worse.
Conservation buffers – such as filter strips, areas of grass or other permanent vegetation that intercept runoff before it enters a water body – prevent much chemical residue from entering waterways. They collect sediment and provide a wildlife habitat.
Biotech farming has enabled growers of major crops to limit their use of herbicides and insecticides by the tons. A wealth of farmer-funded research enables wheat farmers and others to produce more yields with less amounts of fertilizer. And when available, growers use natural sources of nitrogen and other nutrients to produce bumper crops.
Tracy Chapman, a noted national consultant on consumer attitudes, reminds us that consumers consider farmers “as people who put food on their tables.” She says consumers trust farmers. That’s why it’s important for wheat farmers and others to help educate people in town about the many good things we do for the soil, grass and water.
Remind them that Earth Day is every day on the farm.