This article is sponsored by Nuveen
Healthy, well-managed soil is integral to ensuring agricultural productivity. Sustainable soil management means different things to different operators in different environments. But in a row crop system it ultimately comes down to the use of agricultural practices that support the health of both the crops and the ecosystems in which they grow.
Two Westchester-managed properties in Australia embody these beneficial practices. Minimum or no-till farming techniques, compaction management and variable-rate nutrient application serve as examples of the daily practices used in their farm operations.
For the past 25 years, one of Westchester’s row crop farmers in Western Australia has run his farm business as a no-till operation. In doing so, he has set the standard for a sustainable-farming practice that has become increasingly popular in the region and across Australia.
No-till farming is key to managing the arid climate and some of the lighter soil types in Western Australia, where maintaining soil structure and conserving moisture is critical to the farming system. By leaving the earth minimally disturbed, soils can retain more water and are more resilient and fertile. Additional water is conserved by leaving the previous season’s crop residues in place – forming a protective cover over the soil, reducing evaporation, minimizing run-off and erosion, and sequestering carbon.
Selecting machinery is a key part of the equation and the design and width of all equipment is carefully considered. This allows the farmer to achieve optimal timing of key cropping operations, apply inputs evenly across the field and efficiently retain crop residues and minimize soil compaction.
Meanwhile, on the other side of Australia in Queensland, two brothers together with their families own and operate a fourth-generation sugarcane farming business. They have worked methodically for a decade to improve sustainability outcomes for farms they own and operate by addressing soil compaction and nutrient management challenges.
Soil compaction has become a greater problem over the years as farm equipment has become larger and heavier. To address this, the brothers are widening crop-row spacing on their farms, which means changing implements and increasing tire width to spread the load and reduce stress on the soil. It took the family seven years to implement these practices on their own properties. They are now in the process of making the same changes for properties they operate under their lease relationship with Westchester.
The family is also utilizing nutrient management strategies and variable-rate applicators to reduce nutrient run-off and preserve surface water quality, while also improving crop yields and reducing costs.