Years ago, when we first began promoting no-till farming, along with other conservation practices, such as cover crops and crop rotations, we were simply focused on reducing soil erosion.

Sure, we thought about how no-till increased the organic matter in the soil and worm populations, but we really were only promoting the benefits of reducing soil erosion. Fortunately, we have all gotten a lot wiser, mostly because the research and science has gotten better, and now we realize the benefits of these practices in improving the health of the soil and its ability to produce more food, fiber and fuel.

As the old farm expression goes, “they ain’t making no more land” — so if we are going to continue to feed an ever-growing population, we must be able to produce the highest sustainable yields possible.

The National Association of Conservation Districts has recognized the importance of soil health as well as the innovations of farmers across the land. A couple of years ago, they decided to tap into the collective knowledge of farmers who have a genuine passion for caring for the soil and the national nonprofit organization developed a network of these innovative farmers called the National Soil Health Champions. One of our own Soil and Water Conservation District board members here in Delaware County, Dan Lane, has been recognized and selected to champion this important cause.

Dan has a passion for agriculture and growing healthy food. “I look at the soil as being the plant’s stomach,” Dan says. “It’s important to add elements beyond N-P-K to balance the nutrient levels in the soil and unlock the needed elements for plant uptake.”

To that end, Dan and his wife, Jennifer, decided several years ago that they could do better for their soil by manufacturing their own blend of fertilizer. They began tinkering with adding various elements until they developed several mixtures and began production for their farming needs. Eventually, after experiencing successes on their own farm, they began bagging for other customers and today they have a variety of fertilizer mixes that they sell in bulk as well as bag. Their company, HyR BRIXTM, has been the backbone of their farming operation and their family growth.

Dan farms nearly 2,000 acres of corn, soybeans and wheat in rapidly developing southern Delaware County. He started no till/strip tilling and banding fertilizer in 2001. He has also been using cover crops on some of his acreage the past few years. He has been able to cut fertility rates by one third. He uses only dry fertilizer, soil amendments and micro nutrients, through his custom HyR BRIXTM fertilizer. “I feel these are what builds soil health and corrects deficiencies” Dan says. “No-till and strip till has really increased the organic matter in our soil. This has improved the drainage in our soils and the crops withstand stressful weather conditions better”.

As a National Soil Health Champion, Dan will be able to network with other growers across the country and share experiences and knowledge. He will serve locally, as well as nationally, as an ambassador for soil quality. If you want to get in touch with Dan to discuss soil health issues, you can reach him through his website or contact the SWCD office at 740-368-1921 or [email protected] and we can put you in touch with Dan.

Dan Lane of Delaware County has been recognized and selected to champion soil health. Lane of Delaware County has been recognized and selected to champion soil health. Courtesy photo

Brad Ross

Contributing columnist

Brad Ross is communications specialist at the Delaware Soil and Water Conservation District. He can be reached at [email protected].