Conserving the area's resources

5/30/2014

By ASHLEY BOOKER

By ASHLEY BOOKER

abooker@gctelegram.com

Rodney and Sharen McMillan have been awarded the Finney County Conservation District 2013 Conservation Award for their excellent conservation and cropland practices.

In partnership with the Kansas Bankers Association, this award has been given since 1945 for the conserving, safeguarding and improving of the quality of ground and water resources in the area for generations to come.

"I was a bit surprised," McMillan said. "It's an honor to be accepted, or to be nominated to have this award."

The McMillans began farming in the 1980s just south of Finney County. They have been using a wheat/sorghum/fallow rotation in a no-till system for six years now, which has protected the conservation of water, air quality and energy.

"Both of our conservation winners were outstanding," said Connie Richmeier, district manager of the Finney County Conservation District. "What they did was very beneficial."

Rodney McMillan was raised on the farm that he still lives on today, a farm that was first started when his grandfather, Jesse, moved to this area from Reno County for a better opportunity to farm more acres.

Being a third-generation farmer who has farmed nearly all his life, McMillan knows exactly how the soil, wind and rainfall cooperates, and using a no-till system seemed like the ideal system.

When deciding to use a wheat/sorghum/fallow rotation in a no-till system, McMillan considered the drought, wind erosion, the benefits of spraying rather than conventional tillage, the benefit of having to use fewer hours on farm equipment and man-hours, and also the upcoming Farm Bill.

"It conserves residue, also moisture, and it's good for wildlife," McMillan said.

McMillan is participating in his second year in the Conservation Stewardship Program, and, in making the transition to no-till, is in his sixth year participating in the Environmental Quality Incentive Program (EQIP).

In being selected as a part of the EQIP, farmers must submit a plan that includes the rotation they are using. They must use a GPS technology that drives the farming equipment by satellite and also counts acres and maps the land, and they must use low-drift sprayer nozzles to control the height of the sprayed chemical.

"When I first started farming you could probably work 40 or 50 acres in a day, and some of the sprayers that are out there today, they can cover hundreds of acres a day," McMillan said. "I typically can get 120 acres a day."

In addition to the one pull type sprayer, McMillan uses a no-till drill on his farm. In terms of equipment, he doesn't need much more for his type of operation.

"You definitely use less fuel, but the cost of the chemicals is no small thing," McMillan said.

For farmers in this area, it's safe to say the drought has been a large problem and that the current depletion of the aquifer may change other farmers' irrigating practices in the future.

"Western Kansas is a nice place to live and work, but the drought, though, is on everyone's mind right now, even with irrigation," McMillan said. "I think in the future that no-till will definitely be around. It'll be a practice that we will continue."

This practice will be continued by McMillan's son, James, now 29, who has been working on the farm ever since he was able to.

McMillan's other 6 children have taken other interests and will not be carrying on the family farm.

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