Our Soil, Our Strength

It may be easy to believe that growers are focused only on yield, but they’re also working to improve soil health and protect water quality. Charles Hammer and Nancy Kavazanjian have been farming in Beaver Dam, Wisconsin for over 40 years. They have recently implemented a test project aimed at keeping local streams, wetlands, and lakes clean.

“We have been very involved in watershed quality because we have a lot of lakes here,” explains Nancy. “So, we are very conscious of our lakes and our streams. We don’t want to clog them with soil. We don’t want to clog them with nutrients. I farm with my husband, Charlie Hammer and we are corn, soybean and small grain farmers. We farm just under 2,000 acres and we’ve been farming together for about 40 years.”

Charles elaborates further: “Farming for 40 something years here, you always wanted to have good quality soil to work with. And so, kind of our cornerstone of our operation, our soil, our strength.“

The field-size proof of concept is designed to remove phosphorus from the water. The idea is to take the runoff water from the fields, which is drained via tile, and push it through a filter bed that will precipitate out the phosphorus, so that clean water can be delivered to the wetlands and then fuse into the lakes.

The filter bed is filled with slag, which is a waste product of the iron smelting industry. When the phosphorus-laden water comes into contact with the slag, a chemical reaction causes the calcium phosphate to precipitate out. The water then runs from the filter bed into the settling pond.

The couple has also received a joint grant from the American Soybean Association and the Walton Foundation that is enabling them to go the next step, which is to put in a nitrate bioreactor, which other local farmers in the community can also take advantage of.

“To me, that is really one of the big benefits of this,” says Nancy. “We incorporated the community and the wider community of the Soybean Association family. We are seeing significant drop in the phosphorus. There’s not a lot of phosphorus to begin with in our tile water. That’s a good thing. So, we’re doing everything else right. But the phosphorus that sits there is greatly reduced to almost zero coming out. And again, we have clean water. Phosphorus is a major cause of algae blooms on our lakes. And that’s something that’s very visible, that’s very noticeable. We have a cleaner environment for everybody.

For more information, visit soygrowers.com.