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Conservation district announces annual winners at Pratt

Sheryl Stevenson
Cotton is a relatively new crop for 2019 Conservationist of the Year award winners in Pratt County, Richard and Karen Smith.

Supervisors of the Pratt County Conservation District each year since 1988 have selected winners in soil conservation, water quality and overall Conservationist of the Year awards.

A  Banker’s Award Winner in Soil Conservation, highlighting an area farmer or rancher who has continued to show good stewardship on his farm. This person or couple continues good stewardship practices  and is still actively farming.

The 2019 recipient of the Pratt County Conservation of the Year Award goes to Richard and Karen Smith.

Richard Smith rented his uncle’s farm in 1958 and harvested his first crop was in 1959. The money off the crop gave Richard the opportunity to enroll at Kansas State University that fall.

Richard’s first break in farming came when Harry and Christine Lunt gave him the opportunity to farm their land. Later, his son, Darrin, joined Richard in the farming operations. They have implemented strip till and no till along with conventional tillage. They also chemigate through their irrigation systems. This practice saved many trips over the fields.

Cotton has been added in their rotations of corn and soybeans. According to Richard “it has been a learning experience.”

The biggest challenge in farming for the family has been going from clean till farming to adopting residue management practices and converting to no-till. They have learned the many advantages of protecting the ground with residue.

Brehm Farms are Soil Conservation winners for 2019

Steve and Mary Brehm began their farm operation in 1984. Currently, they farm approximately 3,300 acres. Brehm Farms has 200 acres of grass on which they currently run 20 angus cows.

The irrigated acres are all strip-tilled with a corn/soybean rotation.

Dryland acres are in wheat are conventional farmed which is approximately half of the total acres farmed.

Their dryland row crop acres are strip-tilled or clean-tilled and consists of corn, milo and beans.

Lee, Renee Wilson win the 2019 Banker’s Award for water quality

Lee and Reneeﹶ Wilson start their grazing system in the spring, usually going to grass in the first part of May.

The river/creek bottom pastures are grazed first, moving cattle every 3-4 weeks. Each pasture is grazed 2-3 times. The salt and mineral are moved to lightly grazed areas to encourage cattle to use those areas.

Burning, mowing, herbicides and hand clipping are used to control brush and trees. Fifteen percent (15%) of our rangeland is reserved for fall and winter grazing, which is also supplemented with protein.

Hay is fed during the months of February to April calving season.

The farming practices of the Lee and Reneeﹶ Wilson can best be described as minimum tillage with the use of herbicides to maintain the residue on the soil surface. The Wilsons also include no-till primarily for the row crop acres.

They have utilized grid soil sampling on all of the land they farm. This has been especially helpful with the variable rate liming. They apply all their own herbicides. They plow their terraces every 2-3 years as needed. Cover crops have been used on some fields prior to a no-till crop.