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Conservation Planning - Investing in Our Future

Conservation Planning—Investing in Our Future

Investing in our financial future is a concept with which we are all familiar. Following a wise financial plan can help ensure that investments we make today will provide financial security years down the road. The same can be said about investing in the future of our valuable natural resources. With proper conservation planning today, agricultural producers can help guarantee their natural resources will be secure tomorrow. Conservation planning establishes a starting point for producers to manage their natural resources while also providing for the sustainable productivity of their farms.

Soil is the Lifeblood

Productive soil is the lifeblood of any sustainable agricultural operation. Without the organic topsoil, the production capabilities of most Midwest farms would be drastically reduced. Under natural conditions, productive topsoil is created at a rate of approximately one inch every 500 to 1,000 years (depending on climatic conditions and bedrock type). That means the top one inch of fertile topsoil you see today started developing around 500 years ago. To put that into perspective, at the same time the soil started to form, Columbus discovered America and the Incan Empire was at the height of its power. The fertile top layer of most Kansas soils is only around 12 inches deep. This makes it easy to understand how planning to conserve soil is a wise investment for the future of a producer’s operation.

Soil also performs other functions which makes it a fundamental resource for the sustainability of a producer’s operation. Soils control the distribution of nearly 29,000 trillion gallons of water that fall from the Earth’s atmosphere in the form of rain every year. Approximately 63 percent of this rainfall evaporates back into the atmosphere. An additional 35 percent runs off and feeds creeks, streams, and other surface water bodies. Approximately 2 percent of the total rainfall is absorbed into the soil through infiltration (http://soilscience.info). Conservation practices that can increase the amount of infiltration on a producer’s farm will greatly affect the movement of soluble materials, such as nitrates, phosphorus, or pesticides. Soils act as large buffers which filter impurities from our air and water resources.

Develop a Conservation Plan

Taking the time to invest in the development of a conservation plan will allow producers to combine their farming skills with science-based knowledge and the skill of the conservation planner. With alternatives provided by the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), producers can select the best possible combination of conservation practices to meet natural resource needs and individual management production goals. Additional benefits of a conservation plan include helping producers meet environmental regulations, qualify for various USDA conservation programs, and establish a reasonable schedule for applying needed conservation practices that fits a producer’s timeline and available resources. Addressing resource concerns through a comprehensive conservation plan can also boost the financial value of the land itself for the future.

For more information on how you can get started developing a conservation plan, contact your local NRCS office and start investing in the future of your farm’s production today!