Meg Greski With Oklahoma Conservation Commission Explains Journey to Soil HealthThu, 29 Jul 2021 14:35:21 CDT
With the dog days in summer in full swing, so is the discussion and use of soil conservation practices.
Radio Oklahoma Ag Network Associate Farm Director KC Sheperd spoke with Meg Greski, soil health educator for the Oklahoma Conservation Commission, and she said the main focus for her and her team is teaching farmers and ranchers how to adopt the five principles of soil health within their operations.
Greski said they are currently promoting the utilization of cover crops and diverse cover crop rotation, which helps to reduce problems with weeds, pests, and keep more soil water where it falls.
In terms of livestock grazing management, they are encouraging regenerative practices which allows grass to regrow between grazings, Greski said.
They are also advocating for high-density grazings which mirror the way the buffalo used to move across the plains, she added.
We can use cattle as an analog to the bison we used to have in order to treat our native and improved grasses in a way that is consistent to how they naturally evolved, Greski said.
So, effort is making made to encourage producers’ use of electric fence and new stockmanship practices to move cattle around and direct grazing, she added.
“We are hoping to keep cattle moving and leave more grass on the ground instead of grazing it all the way down to the dirt,” Greski said. “We want to help gain more plant diversity in both our pastures and crop fields to keep more ground covered all year.”
One method to achieve this is replacing fallow systems with cover crops, Greski said.
Greski said with the help of colleagues who focus on water quality, work is being done to educate urban land owners about conservation practices they can engage in, she added.
The Yard to Yard Program and the Blue Thumb Programs are great initiatives being researched and pursued by the organizations, Greski said.
“We work closely with these groups, and we all have the same goal,” Greski said. “What we are really trying to express is that it is expensive and non-advantageous to fight the environment and go against nature.”
Greski stated some farmers experience hesitancies to utilizing cover crops, but there are benefits to be achieved.
She said the number one benefit is water retention, which is particularly important to dryer parts of the state and drought-prone regions of the country.
If water runs off, evaporates or cannot make its way to already damaged soil, it is no good - like it did not even fall, Greski said.
Cover cropping and keeping a living, green root in the soil as much as possible allows soil microbiology like bacteria and fungi to feed off the sugar which leak from the plant root, she said.
These life forms also help cycle nutrients through the ecosystem, Greski said, so any fertilizer that is used will not be efficient unless said life forms can cycle and release it to the plants.
For farmers interested in learning more or finding a place to start, Greski said she recommends reaching out to her or anyone apart of the soil health team at the Oklahoma Conservation Commission.
To hear KC’s complete conversation with Meg Greski, click or tap below.
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