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By Kevin Schilthuis • Lovell, Wyoming

We are farming irrigated entisols, which are known to have high mineral content but little biological activity. We would much rather be farming the more productive mollisol soils, but since you play the hand that you were dealt, we have developed a “mollisolve cocktail” program of minimum tillage, cover crops, irrigation, and grazing to quickly and responsibly mineralize these “poor” soils. First we sold our hay harvesting equipment, and installed fencing. We initially graze sheep as the data shows sheep manure has higher nutrient concentrations and there is good consumer demand for lamb in America. In our poor soils, this program as doubled our cation exchange capacity, OM levels have risen from under 1% to over 4%, animal condition is increasing each year while our veterinary care has decreased, and erosion of these poor soils have been eliminated. Our banker recently reclassified our soil types from type 4 (poor) to type 2 (good) for lending purposes.  This increased our collateral during a poor ag cycle and increased our lending portfolio to allow us to purchase 60 acres of irrigated row crop ground adjoining our operation. Soil Health is bankable! Utilizing Cover Crops to match our precipitation and climate has enabled us to become better stewards of the land, and grow a greater diversity of plants and roots for longer periods each year, which allows us to be better caretakers of “all creatures great and small.”

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