Burkett Farms to be honored as Osage County land stewards

Jay,  James and  Emilee Burkett are Osage County’s 2015 soil conservation award winners.

By Rod Schaub, Agent
Frontier Extension District 

The purpose of the Kansas Banker Award Program is to increase awareness of and give recognition to farmers and ranchers that have made outstanding progress in implementing and completing a soil conservation plan that matches the capability of their land. The 2015 Kansas Bankers award winner for soil conservation in Osage County is Burkett Farms. Burkett Farms is operated by Jay Burkett, his daughter Emilee, and son James, all of rural Osage City.

Burkett Farms consists of a cropping enterprise, a cow calf operation, and a soil excavation business. They family works together to get the crops in the ground. James does the strip tilling and plants the crops. Emilee runs the sprayer and Jay splits his time between managing the farm and running to do those jobs no one else enjoys – fixing equipment, ordering seed and chemical, moving the equipment from field to field, and haying. At harvest, James runs the combine; Emilee and a hired man truck the grain to storage. During the winter time, Emilee cares for the cattle, and James and Jay do excavation work.

Conservation is very important to the Burkett family. Jay remembers the first terraces built on the home farm. The time was the mid 1970s, and then terraces were made with a two bottom plow and Jay’s grandpa’s motor grader.

Looking back Jay said, “Those first terraces were nothing more than just speed bumps.”

Those terraces have been rebuilt as machinery has gotten bigger and bigger. They are starting to adapt to using tile outlet terraces instead of the terrace waterway system. Using tile outlets allows them to farm the land that would have been put into a waterway, and with land prices going up this helps them become more efficient.

The family started using no-till in 1993. Their farming practices are now 100 percent strip till or no-till, except for those years that are extremely wet and they need to smooth out ruts caused by the combine.

Strip till is used on their corn acres to reduce soil loss and increase the soil temperatures within a small band. Strip till is when an area about six inches wide is cleared of residue and the soil is lightly disturbed. In the band, where residue is brushed aside and the ground is tilled, this area warms up quicker allowing for quicker plant emergence. When planting corn, they apply anhydrous ammonia, a nitrogen source, to the ground about 6 inches from the strip tilled area. The planter then plants the seed and places the phosphorus, potash and other nutrients just below the seed in the strip tilled area. Other crops are planted no-till.

None of this could be done without technology. “Technology is taking over,” Jay said.

James and Emilee understand the importance of technology and how it benefits the farm. The farm uses global positioning systems to help layout strip tilled areas, to plant, to spray and even to steer the equipment.

James said, “The controllers on the planter save seed and helps prevent doubling of the plant population in turn-around areas of the field.”

Emilee added, “Our sprayer, like the planter, has shut offs to prevent those same areas from being sprayed twice.”

Residue management is really important.

“In the summer, you will see a 15 degree increase in temperature between the bare soil and soil covered with residue,” Jay said. “You can almost see the plants wilt before your eyes.”

They plant cover crops on some of their acres. These plants help hold the soil in place and provide grazing opportunities for the cow herd. This year they aerial seeded some cover crop seed into growing corn. They used forage radish, forage turnips and wheat seed. The airplane seeded the cover crops in early September, and they are very pleased with the results. The cattle will graze the cover crops and crop residue.

“Just having the cattle out on the field rather than in the lot has really improved cattle health.” said Emilee.

It also has eliminated the need to spread manure as the cattle do a good job of that for them.

Livestock water has been an issue the last couple of years for most cattlemen, as it was for the Burketts. During the extreme drought the Burketts’ cow herd was reduced by nearly a third. Most of this was due to the lack of water. The last few years, they have been busy building ponds and putting in concrete waterers below their pond dams.

“These waterers are freeze proof and that allows us to keep the cattle on grass and out of the lot” Emilee said.

They put in their first tank below a pond in 1998. Now in some areas, they can gravity flow water from one pond to concrete waterers in other pastures.

Congratulations will be given to Burkett Farms for being the 2015 Soil Conservation award winners, as they are presented the award during the Osage County Conservation District meeting at 6 p.m. Feb. 1, at the Osage City Schools cafeteria.

Contact us: Osage County News | P.O. Box 62, Lyndon, KS 66451 | [email protected] | 785-828-4994 | Powered by Osage County, Kansas