‘Earth Day’ is everyday for Kansas farmers

When it comes to protecting the land and improving the environment, farmers continue to lead the way and do their part.

As this nation celebrates Earth Day April 22, farmers and ranchers remain committed to protecting the environment using modern conservation and tillage practices.

Farmers and ranchers will tell you their fondest wish remains to pass their land on to their children. They work years, often a lifetime, to leave a legacy of good land stewardship. Most farmers learned about conservation and respect for the land from their parents.

So, it comes as no surprise Kansas farmers and their counterparts across the country continue to adjust accepted practices to meet their individual cropping conditions. Practices can vary from farm to farm and even field to field.

During the last 30-plus years, most Kansas agricultural producers now use some form of minimum tillage to further conserve the soil. Like compost in a garden, these conservation tillage practices ensure ground cover by leaving stalk residues on the surface, provide stored fertility for future crops while protecting the soil against erosion and loss of nutrients. These cultivation practices sustain and improve the soil’s productive capacity.

Today, about 76 million acres of U.S. crop acres utilize some form of conservation tillage. An additional 100 million acres of land throughout the United States incorporates no-till practices for all crops. That means approximately 65 percent of U.S. cropland incorporate either no-till or minimum-tillage conservation practices.

In Kansas, thousands of ponds, thousands of miles of terraces and thousands of acres of grassed waterways help control soil erosion. Farmers have also planted thousands of acres of trees.

Farmers across the state have been known to leave patches of milo close to timber and other grassy cover so birds and other creatures can eat something when snow, ice and other bad weather hit.

It’s also not uncommon to see a farmer with a cherry-red face and earflaps pulled snugly over his head, walking along a hedgerow with a five-gallon bucket of milo in each hand. No, he’s not out to feed a lost calf, but rather the quail, pheasant of some other hungry critter.

Farmers and ranchers have a vested interest in protecting endangered species. More than 75 percent of species listed as endangered or threatened live on private lands.

Kansas farmers utilize biotechnology on their farms. This benefits the environment by producing crops that protect themselves against insects and disease, requiring less tillage and less use of chemical weed control.

Ag producers also produce biofuels that benefit the environment and promote energy security.

Farm and ranch families are proud to live and grow in harmony with Mother Earth. They understand how important it is to protect and nurture this valuable resource. They take their stewardship of the land seriously.

They’ve devoted their lives to safeguarding their farms and families while providing us with the safest, most abundant and affordable food in the world.

John Schlageck, a leading commentator on agriculture and rural Kansas, was born and raised on a diversified farm in Kansas.