Alternative farming methods help combat drought conditions

Some Ozaukee Co. Farmers have switched to no-till farming, they say fields are retaining more water and soil is higher quality
Posted at 6:00 AM, Jun 29, 2023
and last updated 2023-06-30 13:43:37-04

OZAUKEE COUNTY, Wis. — Last month, the I-Team told you about some Ozaukee County farmers who have been using new farming methods to improve soil and water retention. Now, after weeks of little to no rain, we're checking back with them to see how these methods are holding up against Mother Nature's challenges.

Ozaukee County farmers use state funding to spearhead soil, water conservation in SE Wisconsin.

It's prime farming season in Southeast Wisconsin, but the weather has had other plans.

"It caused planting issues. It's caused growth issues in the fields," Brian Vorpagel said.

Vorpagel's a board member of the Ozaukee County Clean Farm Families, a local group of farmers working together to improve soil health and water quality.

Over the last month, the National Weather Service (NWS) has reported some of the driest days. Farmers tell the I-Team they're feeling and seeing those effects.

"I'm concerned, but I can't do anything about it," Dairy Farmer and Clean Farm Families Board Member, Mike Paulus, said.

However, hope isn't lost yet.

Over the last decade, farmers in Ozaukee County, including Paulus, have implemented no-till practices at their farms. Meaning, they don't turn over the soil, they plant cover crop instead. Those crops are used to improve soil quality and retain water instead of being harvested.

It's a method Paulus said could help save crops through this dry spell.

"Some of this no-till has got more moisture in the sub-soil right now, and if we don't get into a rain, it might be the savior of it," Paulus explained.

Tuesday, farmers took a look at both tilled and no-tilled land and saw first-hand how soil can change for the better without tilling.

"It's definitely making a change in the amount of soil we're seeding, amount of ground. It's making a huge improvement," Paulus added.

NWS said more rain could come over the next week, but it likely won't be enough to improve drought conditions. Farmers tell the I-Team, because of not tilling their land, they think they can withstand the drought for now.

"When your soil holds more moisture, you're going to be able to float through these spells, these dry spells. But it usually pans out average wise, that the water will come, maybe not when you want it, but it will come," Paulus said.

For now, these farmers are hoping for rain come July and August for a successful fall harvest.

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