What does Green Week mean for you? Yes, your kids will likely bring home several papers on recycling and start hounding you to put the milk jug in the proper tub. You might recycle a newspaper that you typically wouldn’t or make sure that you only run the water as much as needed. Otherwise, I’m guessing Green Week will either mean more of the same (if you’re a recycler) or pass without fanfare (if you’re not.)
For farmers, green week doesn’t even exist. They celebrate “Green Year” where every single decision they make impacts the land, water, and air around them on a day to day basis. And when the land, water, or air are impacted, there are detrimental affects both on their families that drink the water and breathe the air, and on their bottom line in the future.
In recent years, farmers have made enormous strides in the area of soil conservation, ensuring that less soil runs off of the field in rain water and maintaining as much top soil as possible on the field.
The practice on the farm for years and years was to till the ground often. Farmers would till the field as soon as they removed the crop, leaving it open to the harsh winter weather and spring rains. They would till it again before planting a new crop in the spring. Every time the earth was turned over, particles were loosened and heavy rains would wash soil right into nearby creeks and ponds. Farmers were literally losing inches of topsoil over a period of years, making sustainable farming impossible.
Fast forward to today. It is no longer an acceptable practice to till the soil after harvesting a crop. Farmers leave corn and soybean stalks in the field so that their root systems can hold the soil in place over the winter and early spring months. Many farmers then “no till” the following year’s seeds directly into the stalks from the previous year. With only the planter disrupting the soil to plant the seeds, much more soil is preserved.
Some farmers find that their crops fare better when they use a strip till practice. This means that the farmer tills only a strip of the ground and plants the seed directly into that strip. This allows the seed to grow in a clean area without all the stalks from the previous year inhibiting its growth, but preserves the soil over the heavy spring rains.
These new practices have enabled farmers to decrease soil loss by 67 percent since 1987.
And THAT’S how Illinois farmers celebrate Green Week.