These are just a few examples of how farmers steward the land by using soil conservation practices. Farmers work hard to keep the land and soil healthy now and for future generations. They know their actions affect the environment. No one is closer to the earth than farmers and it is important to them to care for the land, water and natural resources.
1. Cover Crops
CC Image courtesy of USDA NRCS South Dakota on Flickr
No, this isn’t when farmers put a blanket over their crops! Cover crops are plants grown to protect and enrich soil and make sure soil is healthy by putting nutrients back into it. They help slow erosion, control pests and diseases, and increases organic matter. The use of cover crops has also been shown to increase crop yields. This means a farmer can grow more food and feed more people!
Check out this video on different cover crops that are available today!
2. Crop Rotation
CC Image courtesy of SARE Outreach on Flickr
Crop rotation is a technique of planting different crops in the same field, but during different times. This helps soil because some plants take nutrients from the soil while others add nutrients. Changing, or rotating, crops keep the land fertile because not all of the same nutrients are being used with each crop. Historians believe that that crop rotation was used as early as 6,000 B.C.!
This America’s Heartland video breaks down crop rotation.
3. Buffer Zones
CC Image courtesy of U.S. Department of Agriculture on Flickr
With buffer zones, farmers plant strips of vegetation between fields and bodies of water such as streams and lakes. These plants help keep soil in place, keeping soil out of the water source. Buffer zones also act as a filter for water that flows from the field to the waterway. Want More?
This My American Farm lesson gives students a hands-on experience with soil erosion and how farmers steward the land. Or check out this video!
4. No Till Fields
CC Image courtesy of United Soybean Board on Flickr
In tilled fields, soil is broken up to make it easier for crops to grow. Because the soil is loose it can blow away in the wind or be washed away by rain, so some farmers chose to not till their fields. This means that they do not break up the soil in their fields, keeping the soil in place when it rains and helping moisture stay in the soil.
Meet Dan Forgey, a no till farmer, in this video.
BONUS: Let's Play!
Play My American Farm’s newest game Thrive. This is My American Farm’s first soil and sustainability focused game and targets third to fifth grade students. This game illustrates how farmers and ranchers care for the environment! Choose how you would help the soil thrive!
You can also keep the learning going with these free Sustainable Agriculture Lesson Plans