BUFFER AWARD: Peters effort part of being a good steward of the land

Rodney Peters of rural Hillsboro sees the grass strips he has added to land he farms as ?a win-win situation? both for himself and wildlife, especially quail.

Peters and wife Linda are the Buffer Award winners this year for the Marion County Conservation District. They have used technical and financial help from the Natural Resources and Conservation Service to accomplish their goals.

The couple are being recognized for establishing 19 acres of native-grass filter strips and native-grass field borders on several of their fields. Each type of planting is done with specific varieties of native species and forbs, according to MCCD.

In addition, Rodney has encouraged owners of other land he farms to install 42.8 more acres of these same practices.

Peters said he was especially attracted to planting the strips and borders when he found out what they could do to maintain his income in drought years.

He said the 30-foot-wide strips contour land next to trees. In dry weather, the trees would sap available moisture until he received little or nothing from the crops next to them.

The NRCS program pays to maintain the strips, so he is getting something where he might not have had anything.

In the past two years, Peters said he has seen quail increasing on his farm because of the grass.

?It?s difficult to tell how much difference (the grass buffers) made because the quail also could increase because of weather,? he said.

Peters is a land-leasing member of the Goldenrod Hunting Club, named for Goldenrod Road along which he lives. Club members contribute a fee that goes toward paying leases for hunting ground, he said.

The club is limited to the number of members the leased land can accommodate. Currently, the number is about 25 persons.

Peters used no-till methods to raise corn, milo and soybeans for the past 12 years. He didn?t start that way when he graduated from Kansas State University in 1978 and began farming with his father and uncle. They used conventional tillage.

Peters has made other changes over the years, including ending a 120-sow farrow-to-finish hog operation in 1994.

?I still enjoy livestock,? Peters said, so he keeps an Angus-Simmental cow herd. ?The black in them works well, and that?s a good cross.?

Peters has two sons: Brady, who is at Fort Hays State majoring in communications and public relations; and Nicholas, who is getting a master?s degree in Missouri in the field of athletic training and administration.

?I really like no-till,? Peters said. ?I wouldn?t do it any other way. It enhances the soil quality, there?s little erosion, and I have clear water coming off it. It?s evident that no-till increases the organic matter in the soil, too.?

One significant benefit of the organic matter, Peters said, is that more water during downpours?such as some of the 6-inch events of the past few years?is absorbed into the soil instead of running off. The organic matter holds more moisture in the ground.

The soil, chemicals and nutrients that pollute streams and lakes are carried off in runoff water, so enabling most of it to soak into the land should be a goal, he said.

Peters said other farmers sometimes are surprised to hear he doesn?t use the herbicide Atrazine anymore because of the no-till. He uses contact herbicides on the weeds, glycosates like Roundup, that become inert when they hit the ground.

?I rotate crops and chemicals,? Peters said, ?so weeds don?t become resistant to chemicals. There are management issues in controlling weeds with no-till.

?I still maintain waterways and terraces, too, a lot of them built before no-till. I figure I must have 100 acres of waterways. I don?t know if I would have 100 miles of terraces coming into them or not. It sure seems like it when I farm, trying to maintain them and keep them in condition.?

The total effect of grass borders with no-till, Peters said, is like going back to having the water quality of a prairie.

?I?m trying to be a good steward on the land I use and leave it better than when I started for those who come after me.?

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