We are very proud to announce that the National Potato Council has honored Walker Brothers with a 2010 Environmental Stewardship Award. While it’s always nice to be recognized, to receive recognition from the National Potato Council for our work on providing cleaner water and wildlife habitat as well as for preventing soil erosion feels extra good.
Part of the requirement to win the award was to maintain a high crop yield while implementing practices that protect the environment and wildlife. With both our chipping potato crops and wheat crops, we were able to do just that. Aside from the tried and true practice of crop rotation, when planting we used no till drills for the wheat which minimized erosion during planting. As for the potatoes, GPS was used to plant the rows closer together, which helped minimize pesticide use and erosion. After planting the spuds, a few days later the fields were irrigated in order to reduce wind erosion.
For pest management, Walker Brothers used a couple of techniques other than better planting methods. One was to plant 42 foot wide stretches of rye and grass around the fields to attract good insects as well as to encourage bad insects to leave the crops alone. Not only did this help with bugs, it also provided habitat for birds.
Speaking of birds, we participated in the Fish and Wildlife Service’s Flood Fallow program. We voluntarily flooded fields, which provided habitat for migratory waterfowl that summer in the Klamath Basin. This gave the birds a place to hang out as well helped clean the water and returned important nutrients back to the soil. This also gave human visitors to the leases something to look during the Walking the Wetlands tours.
After implementing the above methods and other techniques and technology, Walker Brothers still harvested over 60,000 metric tons of chipping potatoes. So, at the end of the day, we not only had an impressive yield but we also cut down on the amount of fertilizer and pesticides we used and helped make our little part of the world a little better (and cleaner!).
We would like to thank John and the farm crew for all of their hard work in implementing these practices. We would also like to thank the National Potato Council for this award and we look forward to officially receiving it in Vegas in January at the 2011 Annual Meeting!
For more details about the award, be sure to read our press release about receiving the National Potato Council 2010 Environmental Stewardship Award.