Tomorrow is World Soil Day and Kelloggs is giving a shout out to those farmers that use time-honored tactics to maintain productivity and sustainability as part of their Kellogg’s Origins program, which tracks continuous improvement over time in sustainable farming practices.
“Being good stewards of the land and being a profitable farm are not mutually exclusive things,” said Justin Krick, a Kellogg’s Origins farmer who grows wheat that is used in Kellogg’s Frosted Mini-Wheats cereal in Frankenmuth, Michigan. “We need to take care of the soil to ensure both profitability today and to make sure the farm is here for future generations.”
Two long-practiced methods – crop rotation and cover crops – are key to maintaining both the business health and environmental sustainability of a farm. In celebration of World Soil Day, here’s the “dirt” on the difference between crop rotation and cover crops:
Crop rotation is the practice of alternating the crops planted in a specific field in a given year. One season, a farmer may plant wheat, and then switch to sugar beets or corn in subsequent growing periods.
“If you grow the same crop on the same field, year after year, you risk increased disease and insect pressure, and you risk wearing out the soil,” said Krick.
Crop rotation helps by breaking up disease cycles that could affect the same crop year after year. Farmers will often have several different crops growing in different sections of their farm at the same time. This is good for the soil, and it reduces the business impact if a major threat (disease, weather event, or insect) was to hit one crop.
In addition to rotating crops, many farmers plant cover crops in their fields before or after their primary crop has been harvested. Cover crops are typically fast growing plants such as clover or rye. It costs money and takes time, but it’s an investment that pays off in both the short-term and long-term health and productivity of the farm.
“We normally always have something growing on our fields to keep the soil healthy, in place, and to increase organic matter,” said Rita Herford. a Kellogg’s Origins farmer from Minden City, Michigan. “It protects and revitalizes the field, getting it ready for the next crop.”
The roots and leaves of cover crops prevent erosion of valuable top soil from wind and rain. They also absorb nutrients left in the soil after the primary crop is harvested and return the nutrients to the soil when they decompose.
Farmers such as Rita and Justin participate in the Kellogg’s Origins Great Lakes Wheat Project. Through this initiative, Kellogg supports technology and training that helps farmers monitor the performance and sustainability of their farms—and monitor important issues that impact the health and success of their farming like continued soil health.