Finding common ground for the future of soil and water
For Hub City Times
STRATFORD — Over the past five years, the Marshfield Agriculture Research Station has established itself as a leader in conservation farming practices in central Wisconsin. Nearly all of the station’s production acres have been converted to no-till planting, a method that minimizes soil disturbance by planting crops without the multiple passes of tillage that are usually used to prepare the soil for planting.
Other practices that have become fundamental to the research station over that time focus on keeping the soil covered with living vegetation as much as possible: mainly fall-planted cover crops, perennial forages, and managed grazing. While the station is best known as a place where research is conducted, it has also become known as a demonstration site and training facility for many of these practices. Hundreds of farmers have learned first-hand how to implement practices, such as no-till planting, by walking through fields at the research station.
On the evening of Aug. 10, the Marshfield Agriculture Research Station held a grassroots event called Common Ground that showcased practices implemented to achieve and maintain soil health and prevent nutrient loss from the research farm. Event attendees represented a variety of perspectives in soil and water conservation, ranging from township officials to citizen water groups, wildlife habitat organizations to farmers. The goal of the event was to gather a group of people with diverse interests and backgrounds around a common cause: protecting soil and water.
“We have all seen the effects of groups bearing down on their own interests and not considering the interest of their neighbors,” said Jason Cavadini, assistant superintendent and agronomist at the UW Marshfield Agricultural Research Station and one of the event organizers. “It is in everyone’s best interest to do what it takes to avoid the water contamination issues and controversies such as those that have happened in Kewaunee County and Des Moines.”
The event began with a tour of the fields showing no-till planted crops, cover crops that were interseeded into standing corn, and over 100 acres of pastures set up for rotational grazing. More than 70 people attended the event.
One particular exhibit on the field tour was a pollinator plant species demonstration area that was planted with seed paid for by the Center State chapter of Pheasants Forever. One of the main purposes of this event was to not only begin a conversation but to build partnerships with organizations that should be involved in the conversation but may have not been in the past.
Paul Daigle, director of the Marathon County Conservation, Planning, and Zoning Department, addressed those in attendance by declaring, “For many years agriculture has been looked at as the problem when it comes to soil and water, but now agriculture must also be viewed as the solution.”