BANKER AWARD: Nellans say conservation pays off big

Martin Nellans of rural Peabody is a farmer who has been innovative in going to a no-till system of grain farming. But he has stayed flexible enough to tear the ground up using conventional methods when he thinks the time has come to do it.

?I?ve been farming since 1974,? he said. ?I can see advantages to both systems of tillage. Every once in a while, it?s just nice to tear that ground up.?

Martin said tearing up the ground seems to add to aeration and tilth.

He and wife Alice have been chosen as Banker Award winners by the Marion County Conservation District for choosing to address concerns regarding the soil erosion taking place on their 385 acres of cropland and 48 acres of grassland.

The Nellans have used funding sources from both state and federal programs to achieve their goals. They used water resources funds from the Environmental Quality Incentive Program and the Conservation Reserve Program.

To protect their cropland, the couple have constructed 8.1 acres of waterways used in conjunction with 32,477 feet of terraces and diversions.

They use a conservation cropping system and contour farming as well as the no-till strategy. Martin said he is strictly a grain farmer, growing corn, milo, soybeans and wheat.

The Nellans have established 17.9 acres into filter strips on the lower edge of the fields for wildlife benefits. The Marion County Conservation District office reported that their efforts also control scour erosion and slow field sediment that otherwise might enter streams.

Martin has put one 50-acre field into CRP. He and Alice also have used an EQIP contract on 48 acres of grassland to remove brush and trees.

They established a pond for livestock water use but deferred any grazing for one year to allow fuel build-up. This achieved a means for a prescribed burn to enhance the grass population while helping to control trees.

Even though he took time for the improvement, Martin said he leases the pasture to his brother-in-law, Clifford Hett.

Martin said, ?Not only does conservation pay off big, but I enjoy working with the (Natural Resources Conservation Service) guys. They come up with some good ideas.?

Those ideas, he said, paid off in reconstructing some terraces built in 1948 to fit modern machinery and practices.

Martin and Alice are cited by MCCD for showing a willingness to address conservation concerns while maintaining the practices they already have in place.

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