There are, says Bill Myers, many farmers in Northwest Ohio utilizing progressive measures to reduce run-off and other side-effects of agriculture that harm surface water.
“We’re not all old school,” he said. “There is a segment out there already trying different practices on their own to help the situation with the environment.”
In his presentation at the 9th annual Lake Erie Conference last month, Myers, whose family farms about 2,000 acres in Oregon, said the intense scrutiny by some researchers on no-till planting and its links to algae blooms in Lake Erie may be misplaced.
“No-till does a better job holding back run-off than conventional tillage,” Myers said of the practice of planting crops without plowing by inserting seeds into small holes through the stubble of a previous crop, “The problem with some of the studies is they’re saying that no-till is the problem but in Ohio, for example, only about 6 percent of the corn acreage is planted with no-till. About 30 percent of the soybean crops are no-till.”
Many attending the conference appreciated hearing a farmer’s perspective, Myers said, as opposed to hearing from an agricultural agency describing the industry.
“As I said in my presentation, I’m only showing you what our operation has been doing,” he said.
And the family has been doing it for a long time, starting in 1890 with Myers’ great-grandfather. Corn, soybeans, wheat, alfalfa, hay and cover crops are grown at the farm, which is worked by Myers, along with his brother, Bob; son and daughter, John and Rita, and wife Saletta.
Myers father was one of the first growers in the area to rent a no-till planter in the early 1980s.
“There was a government program in which you could rent the equipment and try it out on a small amount of acreage – 40 or 50 acres,” he said. “You could try it out and decide for yourself if it was worth it. After a few years we decided to go ahead and buy it.”
A 5-year study by the Natural Resources Conservation Service that concluded in 2011, collected data on conservation tillage in the Western Lake Erie Basin Watershed that encompasses about 4.9 million acres in Northwest Ohio, Northeast Indiana and Southeast Michigan.
Of the 4.9 million acres, about 3.2 million acres are used to grow crops.
The study found:
- In any given year, about 40 percent of the watershed still has no form of conservation tillage or protective residue cover on the soil at planting time. That equates to about 1.2 million acres of bare cropland in the watershed at planting time.
- About 65 percent of the soybeans are planted with no-till, while only 19 percent of corn acres are planted with no-till.
- Nearly seven of every 10 corn acres are still grown without any form of conservation tillage, using either moldboard plowing or a system which aggressively stirs the soil.
Pat Nicholson, former president of the Toledo Lucas County Port Authority, was the keynote speaker for the conference held at Lourdes University Franciscan Center.