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5 more ways local farmers are caring for the environment this summer

Farmers’ commitment to caring for the environment is nothing new. Last summer we talked about five ways farmers were improving sustainability practices, and there was so much more left to talk about. Farmers depend on the land and environment to continue to produce food. Because of this, increasing sustainability is a top priority for most farmers. Here’s what they’ve been doing.

Reduced tillage or trips across the field

While farmers might not be tilling their fields in the summer, it has long term implications. Tilling is when farmers cultivate and prepare land for crops by turning over and breaking up the soil. In 2017, more than half of Illinois farmers reduced their tillage. By reducing tillage, the soil retains more nutrients and moisture, which is better for the environment.

Keeping water where plants need it – in the fields

One method to keep water where is should be is called diversion, creates ditches to keep water from pooling on flat land. Water run-off can often carry waste from livestock and diversion can help keep it out of other water sources.

Growing the right crops for the right soil type

Illinois grows lots of corn, soybeans, apples and pumpkins, but not much cotton or bananas. At first all land might seem the same, but this isn’t the case. Growing conditions, seasons and soil vary by location, and growing the right crops in the right area can help reduce water usage and result in a bountiful harvest. Illinois is one of the most fertile states and grows a wide variety of crops, but farmers stick to what they know will grow.

Efficient water usage

Farmers are conserving more water than ever, among other sustainability practices. Irrigation practices used by farmers continues to improve, which means each drop of water is used more efficiently to sustain plants, and less is lost to evaporation or to run off. Water also stays in the ecosystem. It evaporates and returns as rain to water cattle pastures.

Using genetically modified crops

Genetically modified crops, or GMOs, have a variety of useful traits that the plant didn’t have originally. One of these traits is the ability to fight weeds and insects themselves, requiring fewer pesticides. Fewer chemicals being applied means less traffic in the fields, less fuel, less soil erosion, all beneficial for the environment.