Illinois

Q&A With Farmer Andrew Roselius

Andrew Roselius is a fifth-generation farmer and Illinois Soybean Association Soy Ambassador who lives in the same house where he grew up near Crescent City, Illinois. He and his family grow soybean and corn and have two cows and one pig.  We talked to Andrew about why he uses sustainable practices on his farm, what motivated him to give those practices a try, and what changes he has noticed in his lands and waters.

Nature.org:

When did you start using sustainable practices on your farm?

Andrew:

Over the last ten years, I started using conservation practices such as no till. Through no till, you leave the residue of previous crops on top to protect the soil from wind erosion. During this time, I also started using precision agriculture, which means using the right amounts of fertilizers at the right rate, the right time, and the right place to keep nutrients on farm fields and out of rivers and streams.

Additionally, in the last three years, I enrolled in a government program called the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) which is administered as part of the Farm Bill.  Through CSP, the Department of Agriculture interviews farmers, calculates a score based on what they’re doing on their land in terms of sustainability, and then provides funding to help with new conservation practices. Through CSP, we’ve planted cover crops, which sequester nutrients and maintain the soil ecosystem.

Nature.org:

What led you to give these different practices a try?

Andrew:

We started seeing the benefits of sustainability through no till. I don’t like to till unless I need to, and we got away from plowing every year when we saw how good it was for soil health. That made it easy to give other sustainable practices a try.  Now, I think no till is going to be the future, because soil is our most precious resource and if you preserve your soil, you preserve water quality, too.

Nature.org:

What are some of the challenges involved in implementing sustainable farming practices?

Andrew:

Farmers have a lot on the line, and there are farmers who will try anything, and there are farmers who are more conservative. Luckily, today there are field days where famers can talk to one another about sustainability. As long as you can show the benefit, people will give things a try. All of us want better sustainability, but we also need to make a dollar, too. They have to go hand in hand.

Nature.org:

What results have you seen so far?

Andrew:

The first time we put land in the Conservation Reserve Program, which is a program that allows farmers to take environmentally-sensitive land out of production and turn it back into natural habitat, we saw all kinds of birds come back, including pheasants and bald eagles. The first time I saw a bald eagle in my fields, my jaw dropped. Now I see them all the time.

When you drive around and look at farms that have conservation practices and those that don’t, there’s less erosion on the fields that use cover crops and other sustainable methods. As the weather changes, that’s going to matter. The healthier our soil, is the better it can handle extreme weather events. I see that already. You see farms that have cover crops don’t lose soil.


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