Farmer tries new ways to help soil
The new buzzword in agriculture is “regenerative.” It goes deeper than sustainability.
Regenerative agriculture is a practice that attempts to restore the soil to its natural productive state.
Clinton Kroupa farms with his father, Marty Kroupa, near Antelope. They are working together to try various biological products and farming practices to reduce the use of artificial fertilizers and activate the natural microbes in the soil.
Kroupa graduated from Marion High School in 2014 and has a degree in agribusiness from Kansas State University. He has attended the No-Till on the Plains conference every year since high school and continues to educate himself on soil health. He is willing to try new things to replenish the soil and reduce the need for chemicals.
“The market is flooded with biological products,” Kroupa said.
He does small-acre trials for companies, to test their products. Last year, he became involved with Elevate Ag, a relatively new company based near Tiffany Cattle Company east of Herington. Shawn Tiffany is one of the founders.
Kroupa uses a biological seed-treatment and applies a growth stimulant that falls into the furrow with the seed. Wheat is top-dressed with a biological liquid added to the sprayer tank.
“It helps speed up the process,” Kroupa said. “It primes the pump and gets the ball rolling.”
He recently purchased a handheld grain tester from Elevate Ag. It is connected to an app on his phone. Just a teaspoon of wheat kernels is needed to test for protein and other nutrient levels. He can test the grain at various spots out in the field before harvest or can take samples of each load of wheat as it is harvested. The results are recorded on his phone.
To test corn and soybeans, the grain is first ground in a small grinder provided by the company.
In time, as regenerative practices continue, Kroupa hopes to use the results to segregate wheat with a high protein content for sale at a premium. High-quality corn would need less additional protein when fed to livestock in the farm’s feedlot.
Kroupa grows triticale for seed and as a cover crop. Sometimes, radishes, hairy vetch, and other seeds are mixed with it.
“Last year we planted green by seeding corn into growing triticale,” he said. “In time, this approach will improve our soil health, and one of the benefits of that is increased grain quality.”
He liked that there was no dust, and it kept the planter clean.
He has found that wheat straw is the best cover. Using a strip header, the combine strips off the wheat head and leaves behind the entire dry stalk. It shades the ground and suppresses weed growth, he said, and it lasts a lot longer than other after-harvest residue.
Another technique is to use a roller to knock down and crimp the triticale, then kill it to provide a ground cover base for corn or soybeans.
Kroupa said he isn’t opposed to all chemicals, but he is exploring other options.
“I like to figure things out for myself rather than someone telling me what to do,” he said.