Corn Farmers Coalition

A Farmer Helps Protect the Ocean Under His Land

Mark Jagels (Davenport, NE)

Under Nebraska lies a vast ocean known as the Ogallala Aquifer. This underground sea has watered Nebraska crops for decades. And these days Nebraska farmers such as Mark Jagels are helping protect it from depletion and pollution.

Jagels provided research fields for testing new gauges from the University of Nebraska that monitor the amount of water each plant sucks up from the earth around it. That information makes for smarter farming and wiser use of water, and that protects the giant aquifer.

“Now we know more about when we need to irrigate and how much water the crop really requires,” says Jagels. “Since we’ve been using this technology, we’ve been able to eliminate one or two irrigation cycles per year — and that means significant savings of both fuel and water, without adversely affecting yield.

“We’ve learned a great deal about when to start irrigating in the summer, when to stop in the fall, and how soon to start the wells after a rain.”

Jagels also uses precision agriculture technology to sample grids on his farm, identifying the level of nutrients in the soil in four-acre segments — allowing him to use fertilizer more precisely and efficiently.

The farm Mark lives on was homesteaded by his family more than 125 years ago. He began farming in 1984.

“Success in farming today is about managing in ever smaller increments and gaining greater control over input costs at every level — from water to fuel to fertilizer to seed,” Jagels says. “It’s all about sustainability over the long term — for the environment, the land, the water.

“Ultimately we want this farm to sustain its ability to provide opportunity and income for future generations.”

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