LINDSBORG – The 2017 McPherson County Conservation District winners of the Soil Conservation Award are Lynn Johnson, operator, and Leland and Jane Nelson, owners, all three of Lindsborg.
The 80-acre field being recognized for the award is one, like many in the county, that has been terraced for at least 30-40 years. And, it serves as a good example that good conservation practices have to be maintained to be effective.
According to Johnson, when he took over the sloping field it was cut up into several different patches defined by the terracing system. While the terraces helped control erosion, they made it more difficult to use the larger equipment used in farming today. As a result, Johnson, who runs a cow/calf herd, decided to plant a portion of the field to sedan and run his cattle on it, rather than grain crops. The age of the terraces and waterways was also showing, with rebuilding needed on some of the terraces and waterways that needed reseeding and cleaning out.
After consulting with the county conservation staff and the FSA office, Johnson decided to make some changes to the field’s terrace system that were more compatible with current no-till farming practices and his cropping plans.
“I’ve always tried to be a good steward of the land, and Leland (Nelson) was, too. When the terraces were built, they were done right. But, since they were needing maintenance, we looked at what would be the most cost- and use-efficient plan for the way the land was now being used. No-till can do a lot (to stop erosion) but it can’t do everything.”
Johnson’s long-term plan is to transition most of the field back to grass, which will cut down on much of the water erosion the terraces were built to stop.
In developing the new plan for the field, it was decided to take out several of the older terraces that would no longer be needed, while maintaining the remaining ones. The three existing waterways have been replanted. Where needed, waterways were cleaned of sediment and recut at the openings to more effectively carry drainage from the terraces. A culvert was put in where a neighboring field drained into Johnson’s. Fabric and riprap were placed below the culvert to slow and divert the runoff as it hits the waterway, minimizing erosion. A number of trees were also removed that had grown up along the waterways.
A quick glance at the field shows it to be a work still in progress. The areas where the old terraces have been removed have been planted with cover crops and will continue to be to minimize erosion until grass has been established.
Johnson said that he is the operator on four farms (one which he owns) that have extensive terracing systems. In addition to the work being done on the Nelson farm, he has also redone the terraces on his own farm and one that he rents.
“Terraces can be a real pain, but they are often necessary if you are going to be a good steward of the land,” Johnson said.