Part of our Conservation Reserve acres are planted in native warm season grasses that thrive in the summer months, providing great habitat for many types of wildlife and storing carbon from the atmosphere in the soil! Unfortunately, the grasses thrive so well that they will smother themselves to death unless accumulated thatch is removed. That is why we have implemented controlled burning to ensure that these conservation areas are able to thrive into the future.
Many trained staff from KY agencies helped us plan and conduct the controlled burn of 45 acres last year. Fire breaks were created around each field to prevent the fire from escaping. Within the field 15 small blocks were created to make the burn more manageable. Less than 15 gallons of water were required to manage the burn.
Forest Stand Improvement
As part of our Forest Stand Improvement program, we are continually accessing the composition and health of our woodlands. We have been using a technique called girdling, like you see in this picture, where a chainsaw is used to cut a ring into the tree around its circumference, killing it over a period of 2 to 3 years. As new research is conducted, new techniques are found to be more effective and better for the health of the woods so we will probably not continue to use the girdling method.
Cover crops are sown after the harvest of commercial crops like corn and soybeans; they grow through the winter and are a beneficial alternative to leaving the field barren. We have been growing cover crops on a small scale since 2014, but have planted them on 100% of our grain acres since 2018. These crops reduce erosion, improve soil quality, reduce weeds, and store tremendous amounts of carbon in the soil. Roughly 540 metric tons of CO2 were sequestered by our cover crops in 2019. Here Cody Rakes, the Director of Farm and Land Development, and his K9 companion Rascal are sampling the cover crops to see how much top growth was produced.