Modern ag, increased productivity, wildlife can coexist
The young boy hopped and skipped across ground farmed by his family for generations, his dog trotting along behind him. Strips of thick cornfield stubble forced him to slow enough to maneuver over the rows before he encountered another strip of smoother ground again. His father had explained the strips, but his mind wandered elsewhere to the edge of thick grass and low trees that cut through the field only a few yards away. His raucous arrival at its edge was enough to spur the sudden flapping of wings. A pheasant jetted from the tall grass, startling him for a moment before the familiar roar of a diesel engine begged his attention and beckoned him back to the farmstead.
Creating idyllic scenes like this, where cropland gives way purposefully to wildlife habitat, are becoming more of the norm. In places where fences were once torn out to ensure more ground could be worked is now being turned into wildlife habitat. The use of sustainable farming practices are partnering highly productive crop production with environmental stewardship. It’s a serious balancing act that continues to play out across America’s heartland – and its success or failure will have lasting impacts for both agriculture and the environment.
For decades, farmers found themselves in a tug-of-war between consumers who demanded low grocery bills, and environmentalists and regulatory agencies demanding significant change.
Now criticism of agriculture has begun to boil over, and it’s no longer just the fringe groups sounding the alarm. Demons like agricultural runoff, improper use of chemicals, poor cropping techniques that rob soil of nutrients and other environmental harms continue to haunt the agriculture industry even as many farmers turn to the use of sustainable practices.
While it is typically high-input, conventional agriculture grabbing the headlines for all the wrong reasons, the bigger story unfolding in production agriculture today is the movement toward no-till and low-input farming.
So, with the demand from a growing population and increased use of biofuels, is it possible for modern agriculture and increased production of corn to coexist with sustainability – without putting soil quality and habitat for wild life at risk?
The simple answer – yes.
Today’s farmers are finding a variety of ways for production agriculture – even on a large scale – to work in harmony with the natural environment. And what may be surprising to some: they aren’t giving up profits or yields to do so. Over the next few pages, Vital gives you a few examples of equipment companies and farmers that have embraced sustainable practices without sacrificing their bottom line.
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