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Local farmers learn about improving soil amid drought conditions

BYRON, Minn. (FOX 47) — Local farmers got the opportunity Tuesday to learn how to improve the soil they grow their crops in.

The Land Stewardship Project aims to educate farmers on the land and how to use it in a sustainable way. They held a workshop Tuesday to discuss different ways to improve soil health at Martin Larsen’s farm in Byron.

Tilling the land is a conventional way to grow crops by turning up the dirt. Larsen uses what’s called a “no till” method on his crops. That means he doesn’t disturb the soil when planting.

The “no till method” helps the soil retain moisture and valuable nutrients. It also makes the soil more resilient to harsh winter weather. He’s been successful with his yield, even with the recent drought conditions.

“We are about six inches short on rainfall so far this season,” Larsen said. “Things are going pretty well. No-till definitely holds moisture better.”

The group also discussed the use of “cover crops” and how to use livestock to improve soil quality.

Cover crops are planted in place to cover the soil, rather than be harvested. They are also planted to take the place of crops that have been harvested to manage erosion and promote a healthy soil ecosystem.

“(Larsen) is a big proponent of cover crops,” Maura Curry with LSP said. “He keeps a living root in the soil year-round. It can be especially great if you are someone who owns cattle. You can almost get two crops off of the same field by growing a cash crop and a forage crop afterwards.”

Techniques like “no till” require different farm equipment like disc seeders and agriculture drills. Those at the workshop received a demonstration on how they work.

LSP will be hosting another workshop July 27at 10 a.m. at Gunderson Farm in Spring Valley. Similar topics will be discussed, including how to improve waterways through responsible soil management.

For more information, visit The Land Stewardship Project website.

Megan Zemple

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