By Sonja Gjerde
Surrounded by brown, brittle corn stalks, dust billowing at his feet, one man seeks to salvage what the land has to offer. Curtis Adkins steps down from his John Deere combine.
After suffering loss in corn and soybean production he can appreciate the benefits Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) has for conserving forage and wildlife.
Adkins farms about 1,500 acres, and his corn is yielding 50 to 60 bushels an acre. According to University of Missouri Extension, the five-year average for corn production is 139.6 bushels an acre.
He also runs a cow-calf operation of 150 animals, and the drought caused low yields in not only corn, but hay as well. He doesn’t know how he is going to feed his animals.
“The hay situation is going to be challenging,” said Adkins. “Figured I was going to have to move cattle.”
One-third of his land is in CRP, which works to prevent soil erosion by leaving perennial foliage on the soil. These acres became a saving grace this year, because native grasses are more resistant to drought. He mowed about 200 acres of CRP land to feed the cattle.
The land in CRP provides more than a fallback in bad years. He is an avid hunter and seeks to restore wildlife even though, with near-record corn prices, he loses potential profit.
“To some people, CRP is a loss, but to me, I’m getting birds back,” he said.
Despite the devastation of the drought, he recognizes that it has increased quail population. Less water means less flooding, which drowns small birds and nests.
Next year he will consider whether to put more land into CRP or continue producing crops. He says he will do what he thinks is most beneficial for both wildlife and his livelihood.
“(Agriculture and conservation) go hand in hand, both gotta work together or you don’t have anything,” said Adkins.
— Edited by Anna Boiko-Weyrauch
Corn stalks from Adkin’s field on Friday, Sept. 20 in Savannah, Mo. Underdeveloped ears yield approximately half of the average for Missouri. Photo by Sonja Gjerde.
A plot of CRP land bordering the field Adkins was harvesting. Stands like this were harvested for supplemental feed for his 150 head of cattle. Photo by Sonja Gjerde.