Applications are now available for those students wishing to apply for financial help in an agriculture related areas of study.

Greene County Farm Forum will award up to $,5000 in scholarships to a maximum of five deserving current year graduating students or college freshmen pursuing higher education in a field related to agriculture.

Those applying must be a resident of Greene County or have attended Greene County schools.

Applications are due April 19 and for an application email scholarship chair Jim Byrd at: [email protected] or call him at 937-429-1805.

In the past 10 years Greene County Farm Forum has awarded more than $20,000 to deserving recipients studying programs in agriculture.

Tree seedlings

If you are thinking of planting tree seedlings on your property this year the trees available through the Greene Soil and Water Conservation Office may be for you. They are offering tree seedlings like Austrian Pine, Colorado Blue Spruce, Eastern Redbud, White Oak, Sugar maple and River Birch for example. Packet size for the seedlings vary from 10-25 trees.

There are also other packets for wildlife, songbirds, hardwood etc. Prices also vary depending on the species and age of seedlings from $18- $40. For more details on this opportunity log on to: down on the page to the Tree Sales information.

You can also call their office at 937-372-4478 for information or to get a flyer detailing the program. They are located at 1363 Burnett Drive, Xenia. All orders are due in the Greene Soil and Water Conservation Office by March 4.

Try to take advantage of the accompanying information in the brochure dealing with maximum height, growth rate, spacing and soil type needed for healthy growth of these trees.

Soil loss in our lifetimes

“Over half of all our topsoil and organic matter has vanished since farmers broke the Midwestern prairie in the 1800s.”

This is according to Peter Scharf who is a soil scientist with the University of Missouri in a recent article appearing in Successful Farming magazine titled “Sustainability.” This mirrors the column I wrote in the October 2018 Xenia Gazette titled “Elephant in the Field.”

To refresh your memory here are some excerpts from the article which was based on some workshops I attended at the 2018 Conservation Tillage Workshop held annually in Ada Ohio.

“The changes in our soils since the prairies were plowed have been truly eye opening according to David Montgomery of the Univ. of Washington. He showed slides indicating the farmers in Palouse Washington have lost one foot of topsoil from 1911 -1961 from erosion.

This includes 1.5 tons/year in conventional tillage areas (plowed, disc etc.) and no-till losses of.o8 tons/acre/year. He also thinks the soil organic matter level in North America’s soils is 50 percent of what they were when the land was in forest or prairies.

Rick Cruise of Iowa State University stated Iowa is losing 5.1 tons of soil for every pound of corn produced in the state.

In an article in the mid-November 2017 issue of Successful Farming Magazine Abby Wick who is a soil Health Specialist with North Dakota University states “We’ve lost up to 15 inches of topsoil in the last 50 years. This includes a loss of organic matter of 1.2-2.5 percent over the same time period.”

Since the prairies were first plowed, soil carbon stocks have decreased by 40-50 percent says Catherine Stewart, a USDA –ARS research Soil Scientist.

In Ohio we see this loss of soil many times in fencerows that are adjacent to areas under cultivation. After many years of cultivation the soil in the fence rows are higher than the field being cultivated due to erosion and the oxidation of organic matter being exposed to the air.

Soil which has lost organic matter loses water holding capacity and the soil organisms necessary to convert nutrients in the soil to a form useable by the plants. Organic matter is also important in helping hold the soil particles together which contain nutrients needed by the plants. Cultivation tends to break down the soil structure.

The more tillage performed on our soils the greater the loss of soil due to erosion as well as the oxidation of the carbon and organic matter in the soil. The change in our soils over time since farmers cleared the prairies and forest land appears to have left their mark in reduced top soil and fertility.

Can we turn the corner in putting together a plan to better utilize/preserve the fertility of our soils and improve them through better management? The “Elephant in the Field “for many farmers is tillage.

How much can we do without soil degradation or loss? Some organic farmers tend do more tillage to control weeds vs. the use of herbicides and some farmers think tillage is the only way to control weeds. What is best for the soil and crop production and are we leaving our children with less productive soils? Will the plow pictured above be a tool that has done harm to our soils as well as the good in preparing a seedbed?

Submitted photo Since the prairies were first plowed, soil carbon stocks have decreased by 40-50 percent. photo Since the prairies were first plowed, soil carbon stocks have decreased by 40-50 percent.
Around Home & Farm

By Jerry Mahan

Jerry Mahan is a retired agricultural educator for Greene County. He can be reached by email at: [email protected].