Michael Thompson began incorporating cover crops on his farm near Almena, Kansas, in 2009, embarking upon a road to soil health that results in diverse feed for the farm’s beef cow/calf operation and improved soil productivity. Cover crops replace summer fallow on all his acres, with rotational grazing used to maintain as much groundcover as possible and limit compaction. The Thompsons focus on grazing and cover crops and keeping a growing crop on farmland, practices that have helped them grow organic matter to 3 percent and keep chemical resistant weeds at bay.
Using practices that promote soil health is essential because all farm and ranch income starts with the soil. A well-functioning soil will produce good yields and provide plenty of forage no matter the weather. If not for eliminating summer fallow and building the cowherd, Michael said he would not have had a place on the farm.
“I am passionate about soil health because better treatment of the soil leads to more profit and a healthier environment,” he said. “We need to look at soil as more than just a medium to plant into. When we start to focus on what the soil needs we can be more productive and more profitable. We need to treat the soil as more than just dirt.”