Biodiversity is hard at work above and below ground

On their fourth-generation farm near Harlan, the Rosmanns plant windbreaks, grassy field borders and — for pheasants and quail — native prairie species. Generous populations of lacewings and ladybugs indicate that the Rosmanns' commitment to biodiversity is keeping predators in balance with prey. Nesting boxes support three pairs of American kestrels, which return the favor by snatching up small rodents.

Rather than alternating corn and soybeans every other year, the Rosmanns' primary rotation spans six years: corn, soybeans, corn, small grains and two years of alfalfa. Instead of expansive monocultures, they break up their 620 acres into about 45 fields, letting topography decide n how each field is divided. If their light infestations of corn borers drop a few ears of corn onto the ground, their cattle glean them after harvest. "Most conventional farmers continue to tear out their fences," says Rosmann. "They don't have anything running on their fields to pick up the fallen grain. It's wasted on most farms. That's ridiculous."

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