A no-till event focuses on using soil-health practices in western Kansas

Alice Mannette
The Hutchinson News
An example of regenerative soil in Windom.

No-till on the Plains is celebrating its 25th anniversary with three in-person events. The second event takes place July 15 in Liberal. Participants will go on a field tour and listen to a session about farm economics.

Nick Vos, who was raised on a vegetable farm, lives in Hugoton, where he raises corn, sorghum, soybeans and wheat. Along with his land in Kansas, Vos owns land in Oklahoma, runs a seed business, and, along with his wife Johanna, has incorporated Dorper sheep into his operation.

Because of a limited water supply, Vos is trying to take advantage of activities that help the soil retain moisture as well as beneficial nutrients. By adding sheep to his rotation, he is adding a new type of biodiversity.

"Prior to western development, the prairie was a grazing system," said Steve Swaffar, the executive director of No-till on the Plains. "The soils we now farm were developed with grazing as the dominant flux of carbon in and out of the system."

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Dorpers are a hair-sheep breed used in arid environments. These animals require less water and are heartier in this environment.

"By adding livestock back onto the landscape, we are returning carbon and other nutrients back to the soil instead of exporting them out of the system," Swaffar said. "The bacteria coming from the gut of the grazing animal in saliva, urine and feces are now becoming a part of the bacterial community in the soil."

By adding livestock back into the environment, these sheep add new microbes into the land's depleted soils.

"Essentially we are restoring the nutrient, energy and water cycles back to the landscape by adding the livestock diversity back to the landscape," Swaffar said.

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According to No-till on the Plains president Michael Thompson, “Nick is making the most of his environment by taking care of the soil and understanding diversity in his production system is key to success.” 

The event, which begins at 8:30 a.m., will have a half-hour lunch. Following lunch, Josh Lloyd, who raises beef and sheep in Clay Center, will share his experience earning higher profits by utilizing soil health principles on his farm. The cost of the conference is $25, and the optional lunch is an additional $15.