Soil School: How Axten Farms is loyal to their soil

Tannis and Derek Axten

Farmers across Canada care deeply about their soil but Derek and Tannis Axten of Axten Farms take it to a whole other level. The Minton, Sask., farmers’ commitment is is even written into their company’s tagline — loyal to the soil.

“The reason I like it is it kind of reminds us that everything we do affects the soil,” says Tannis. “We are a cropping system so we are taking, but we always want to make sure we’re giving back. So before any operation we do on our farm, we consider how is this going to affect the soil, because we want to be as loyal as we can.”

On this episode of the RealAgriculture Soil School the Axtens share how they utilize low-disturbance seeding, reduce inputs and better manage herbicides to benefit their soil. They’re also big proponents of intercropping and controlled traffic, which plays an important role in managing the soil’s water-holding capacity. Stripper headers are also used at harvest to cut the crop as high as possible to leave more residue. (Story continues after the video.)

Axten Farms has also changed how they view their soil. When they started farming they referred to their soil as dirt, but over the years they’ve grown to appreciate and understand their soil and the need to manage and feed the microorganisms that bring it to life to help fuel their crops. Keeping the soil covered and diversifying crop rotations play a key role in feeding the soil and promoting life under ground.

Being loyal to the soil has also produced measurable soil health improvements. The Axtens have seen significant changes in soil aggregation and water infiltration, which allows their soils to absorb and keep more moisture from rain events that are increasingly unpredictable. There’s also a noticeable change in soil colour and structure and a growing population of earthworms.

Derek stresses that being loyal to the soil does have its ups and downs but he feels that making a commitment to the soil every crop year is a road well worth travelling. “I have 35 crops left… and we have a lot to figure out,” he says. “We try as many things as we can each year and see where where the holes are and see where the winds are, and go that direction.”

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