Farming with regenerative agriculture: A day at the Bottens Family Farm
Reimagining regenerative agriculture. It was amazing to see how regenerative agriculture was practiced on a farm at the Bottens Family Farm, Moline, IL. The Bottens family has five generations of experience with all kinds of farming practices. They understand firsthand that soil health is important for improved crop yield. Monte Bottens, the current farmer, is a long-term thinker, like 50 years ahead. He really cares about the farms’ soil health and uses farming practices that nurture topsoil and its microbiome. Among these practices is no-till farming. Tilling encourages erosion and soil loss, and it can take 15–20 years to bring the topsoil back to health and make it productive again.
What is regenerative agriculture? According to Wikipedia, “Regenerative agriculture is a conservation and rehabilitation approach to food and farming systems. It focuses on topsoil regeneration, increasing biodiversity, improving the water cycle, enhancing ecosystem services, supporting biosequestration, increasing resilience to climate change, and strengthening the health and vitality of farm soil. We will tell you the four regenerative agriculture practices that really stood out for us at the Bottens Family Farm.
Our first two visits were to fields of corn and soybeans, both of which were grown organically. The farms also had test plots for weed control. Soybean was interesting because they had two large plots to control weeds: one grown with rye as a companion crop, and the other was treated with a weed killer. The soy grown with rye did not have any weeds, but the one with weed killer had plenty of weeds. It was as if the weed killer was promoting the growth. It turns out that the timing of the weed killer application is critical. If the weather conditions aren’t right, your weed killer won’t work. Luckily, they did not have this kind of problem with the companion crop rye because when the weather conditions change, the rye adjusts accordingly and controls the weeds.
Companion crops were not the only thing that controlled weeds. Bottens demonstrated the Weed Zapper, a tractor with an electrified bar…