Covering their ground
By ANGIE HAFLICH
By ANGIE HAFLICH
In the past few years, the Goodens, who farm north of Garden City, have made the transition to no-till, and their efforts have resulted in them being awarded one of two 2013 Finney County Conservation Awards.
According to the Finney County Conservation District, the Goodens primarily use a wheat/sorghum/fallow rotation with minimum till and no-till in their operation. They have participated in the Environmental Quality Incentive Program (EQIP) to transition to no-till. EQIP is a federal program administered through the National Resources Conservation Service.
Mandy Shaw, supervisory district conservationist at the FCCD, said that program provides financial and technical assistance to producers as they implement practices to address identified resources of concern, such as soil, water and air.
The Goodens also have participated in the Conservation Security and Stewardship Program (CSP), carrying out enhancements that improve soil quality, air quality and water conservation.
According to the website, www.nrcs.usda.gov, CSP encourages producers to address resource concerns in a comprehensive manner by undertaking additional conservation activities; and improving, maintaining and managing existing conservation activities.
The Gooden farm is located about 20 miles north of Garden City, where Archie Gooden and his son, Josh, farm wheat, milo and corn.
Josh Gooden said that he and his father began the transition to no-till about four or five years ago.
"We haven't pulled an implement that tills the ground for two years," Josh said.
No-till allows for crop residual to be left undisturbed and be used as ground cover. The ground cover not only traps moisture in the soil, but it also prevents soil erosion from occurring.
"As long as you have some ground cover, you don't have any wind erosion, and we have much less rain erosion. You can have a big rain, and it will soak in," Josh said.
Without it, he said, heavy rains can cause the soil to wash away because of it being too loose.
By not disturbing the ground with tilling, the Goodens are able conserve the much needed moisture present in the ground — a precious commodity during the drought.
"So far this year, we've only had about an inch of rain," Josh said.
He said that they have seen an increase in yields since the transition to no-till, and that it has saved them both time and money.
"It also makes it a lot easier — you can cover a lot more acres. When you're working it, you might take all day on 160 acres, where now you can spray 160 acres in a couple of hours," Josh said.
His mother, Susie Gooden, said that due to the drought, they have come to see no-till as somewhat of a necessity. She also said it has helped them save on fuel costs.
"We use a lot less fuel because it's not so much pull on the tractor. We just use a sprayer, and the fuel is less because of there being less resistance," she said.
According to the conservation district, establishment of native grasses, through the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) and windbreaks has added diversity to the Goodens' operation, which Shaw said not only protects the farmstead from wind and snow, but also provides habitat for wildlife species native to the area.
Archie Gooden was unavailable for comment, but Susie said that her husband is always looking for ways to improve farm operations.
"I think farmers are some of the best people to conserve because it's their long-term livelihood," she said.
Susie said that it was an honor to receive the award.
"We were very honored, and we respect and depend on the people at the conservation office for advice and guidance. We have gained a lot of knowledge through their office," she said.
Both Josh and Susie said that other farmers in the area who previously made the transition to no-till also have helped them.
Connie Richmeier, district manager at the conservation district, said that each year, a committee made up of the Kansas Bankers Association, Natural Resources Conservation Service and K-State Extension, chooses up to five conservation award recipients.
Rodney and Sharon McMillan farm south of Garden City and also received the 2013 Conservation Award, primarily for their use of no-till and for carrying out enhancements to improve air quality and support energy conservation.