It’s always great to see a no-tiller who ‘walks the walk’ when it comes to improving soil health get recognition they deserve. That was the case last month when Waco, Neb., grower Scott Gonnerman received the Master Conservationist Award from the Omaha World-Herald for the conservation work he’s done on his 250-acre farm.

Gonnerman’s view of his role in farming seems to be squarely pointed at the future, however, rather than past accomplishments.

“If we don’t change the way we’re farming, then future generations won’t be farming the family farm,” Scott Gonnerman told the newspaper. “I’m trying to increase soil productivity so that my grandson can make a living farming someday.”

We featured Gonnerman in No-Till Farmer recently as well, and you can read the article here. But here are a few noteworthy things the newspaper pointed out about Gonnerman’s no-till management:

  • Gonnerman has stopped using gravity irrigation and switched to a center pivot as water infiltration rates improved through no-till, which in turn helps him conserve water.
  • He’s raising non-GMO corn, soybeans and small grains and has eliminated the use of insecticides and fungicides. 
  • He turned to seeding cover crops in 2009 with annual ryegrass being his first species, as he worked to improve soil tilth and health. But covers have done more than that, as he’s been able to stop using insecticides and lean more on natural predators.

“My farm has to have insect paths and bad fungi, because that’s what the beneficial insects survive on,” Gonnerman told the World-Herald. “If we create the right habitat, then when all the insects and pests come, they will balance themselves out.”

Generally it’s up to farmers to decide what management practices work best for them. But I think the outlook for agriculture would be a lot brighter if more growers followed Gonnerman’s example and worked to ensure they leave farmable soil for future generations.