It’s planting season again in Minnesota. It’s so amazing to see the tractors rolling day and night putting in the crop! I am often amazed at the hard work of all farmers, but even more so by their ability to be optimists. When they look at a barren field; black and empty, they see a canvas waiting to be worked, cared for, tended, seeded, nurtured and harvested. They look at that field and see potential, not dirt, but life giving soil, which they are responsible for.
Soil, not dirt, is a delicate ecosystem of macronutrients, micronutrients, soil bacteria, soil insects and organic matter (decomposing plant material). Dirt doesn’t give life, but soil is filled with potential to give and support life! Farmers carefully till the soil, working it to the right conditions for seeds. Some farmers do no-till, some do deep tilling, some do shallow, each type specific for the type of soil they have.
As you drive by a field you may see sprayers and other agronomy equipment cruising through. I’ll bet most of you will jump to the conclusion that these farmers are applying dangerous chemicals to their fields to control weeds and pests. I’ll bet you would be surprised that these farmers are actually applying fertilizers, micronutrients, seed treatments, and yes some herbicides and pesticides. Farmers work with agronomists to make the best choices for their soils. I’ll be you didn’t know what farmers often take soil samples each fall to determine specifically which fertilizers will be needed. In fact, with GPS technology we can even apply specific fertilizers in certain places in a field so we don’t waste resources and produce a more consistent crop.
Some farmers will apply herbicide (weed killer) at the beginning of the season to give the crop a head start without competition for resources (sun, rain and soil nutrients) from weeds. Once the crop canopies over (the point where the foliage covers the soil below the plant) sunshine is prevented from reaching weeds below. That means for some fields, one application is all they will ever get of herbicide, and they will grow chemical free for the remainder of the season. You see, farmers are very wise with their choices. Herbicides and pesticides are expensive, farmers work on very tight budgets and can’t afford to overdo it. They have to use a smart combination of tillage practices, crop rotations and seed selection to help them control pests, weeds, use their resources wisely and take care of their soil.
Most farmers are the product of multiple generations of farmers and they have hopes of passing their farm onto the next generation, their sons and daughters. It’s in their best interest to care for their soil the best they can because it has the “potential” to support the next generation of America’s farmers. Farmers don’t see dirt, they see Potential!