Reach Your Farming Goals Using a Systems Approach- Noble's Jim Johnson Lends His Expert AdviceTue, 06 Feb 2018 11:24:18 CST
Jim Johnson, soil and crop consultant at the Noble Research Institute in Ardmore, Okla. spoke to farmers recently during the 22nd Annual No-Till on the Plains Winter Conference about how to manage a mixed crop, pasture and livestock system. While there, Radio Oklahoma Ag Network Associate Farm Director Carson Horn visited with Johnson to get some of his advice for farmers looking at implementing a similar system on their operations. You can listen to their complete conversation by clicking or tapping the LISTEN BAR below at the bottom of the page. According to Johnson, it all begins with a farmer’s long-term vision for their business.
“One of the most important things we do is look at what that producer’s goals are,” Johnson said. “What are their soil health goals, crop goals, livestock goals… Then we take a systems approach to how can we put those together to meet their needs and also be good stewards of the land we work on.”
Some of the first considerations Johnson makes with a landowner when developing a strategy for their farm, is to look at their environment. Johnson says first, take into consideration whether your property is in a wet area, or a dry area, and from there take inventory of what resources are available to you - things such as equipment, labor, time and capital. One of the final pieces of the puzzle, says Johnson, is how to integrate livestock into your system.
“One of the five soil health principles is proper integration of livestock, a natural part of an ecosystem,” Johnson explained. “Livestock needs to be in every ecosystem and so we work to put those in properly and appropriately so we can get all the ecosystem benefits from those and still have our farmers and ranchers be successful and profitable.”
This whole system, Johnson says, comes full circle once livestock are successfully integrated as they then help to replenish nutrients to the soil to feed what Johnson calls “the underground livestock,” all the microbes that help make healthy soils. Noble has recently recommitted its efforts to focus on soil health research, which Johnson says will help farmers further their knowledge of sustainable farming practices and conservation.
“I really feel like we’re getting back to our roots,” he remarked. “We started with an emphasis on the soil. Obviously after the Dust Bowl, so we’re getting back to a lot of really focused efforts on the soil and land stewardship and being sustainable. Healthy soil means healthy plants, which means healthy livestock and healthy humans.”
For farmers just getting into conservation, Johnson advises them to simply get their feet wet with the process and start out small.
“My advice for guys getting started is know your goals and know your resources; apply principles, not practices and then - be patient. Change takes time,” he said. “Get comfortable with it and get some of those successes. That really starts to build the momentum.”
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