Erosion is a constant battle when it comes to monoculture crop land. Crops are planted and harvested by large machinery and the “weeds” or otherwise compatible plants are killed using herbicide applications to increase yield, thus eliminating the thatch that aids soil coverage and results in periods of no living roots in the soil between plantings leaving the land extremely vulnerable to soil erosion.
A large part of our farm is comprised of cropland that we have naturally converted into pasture. When we purchased this cropland to increase our farm’s capacity, we inherited a large ditch due to this type of erosion. This was no regular ditch, and we nicknamed this area our “Grand Canyon of Cool Spring”. No joke, a cow could enter the ditch from the top of the hill and walk over 400 feet to the bottom and would completely disappear for the lower two-thirds of the trip.
As a temporary fix and to reduce further erosion, we set a temporary fence around this area when the cows were in that paddock. This process helped, but calves are another issue. Calves are fearless and small and will boldly go where no cow can fit. So, for small amounts of time this hole was used as an interstate highway for wayward calves to go exploring.
Thirty-Five years ago, the area of this canyon was a wooded bluff providing a habitat for wildlife and a shade source for animals, but when the bluff area was converted into cropland, trees were removed, and the hillside was graded to accommodate large tractors, planters, and combine harvesters.
Over thirty years in the future we have come full circle. We are leaving trees for shade and to help prevent soil erosion, keeping plants growing and covering the soil.
Our management practices were making improvements, but to speed things along, we partnered with NRCS to mend the ditch. The repair took some work. The old ditch had to be graded over and filled in and a new waterway constructed. It was a family affair and WIl and Wes were able to lend a hand. We seeded the area, added matting and hay to help it gain a foothold. It was well worth all the work.
The completed area is 70 by 400 feet.