Soil Stewardship Strengthens Operation
November 13, 2019
While physical health is key to a person’s quality of life, Derek and Renee Martin of Logan County have found the same can be said for soil. By focusing on the condition of the soil on their corn and soybean farm, their fields are more productive and crops healthier.
“Soil health is the key aspect of our operation,” Derek reports. “This means understanding the chemical and biological sequence behind soil health, such as what nutrients crops need.”
Derek, a former assistant grain elevator manager, joined the farm operation in 2013 when his father began considering retirement. During Derek’s first year as a full-time farmer, he worked alongside his brother and sister-in-law as his father’s apprentice. He began renting ground in 2014 and has since bought out his father’s portion of the farm while acquiring additional acres. Renee, a former dental hygienist, joined the farm business in 2018.
As seventh-generation farmers, Derek and Renee have embraced their family’s practices – including carrying on the family business, Bluestem Agricultural Services, founded by Derek’s father. The company provides soil health and biology services to area farmers by creating a biological product containing 4,000 beneficial microbes, bacteria, and fungi.
“By applying the biological solution and examining the aggregate soil structure of our fields, we’ve reduced the total nitrogen applied and eliminated nitrogen stabilizers, some fertilizers, and soybean seed treatment,” Derek says.
Improving soil health means more than higher yields with less input costs. Healthy soil also reduces challenges like erosion, water runoff, and nutrient leaching.
Other conservation practices on the farm include strip-till and no-till practices and planting cover crops. These adaptations in conjunction with the use of biologicals make these practices especially successful on their operation.
Derek and Renee understand continuing education is crucial to farming today. They frequently participate in agriculture-related webinars and attend farm financial management seminars. Inevitably during the sessions, the topic of soil health comes up, and the Martins are eager to share their successes so others can improve their farms too.
Another vehicle for promoting the importance of conservation practices and soil health is a podcast called Bluestem Farm Talk Renee started with her father-in-law. “We enjoy educating people about what’s going on at our farm with issues such as soil health,” Renee notes.
Derek says improving soil and production is incredibly rewarding. “It’s not just a paycheck for us. We care for the land and soil and want to sustain it for many years to come, whether or not we own it.”