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N.D. farmer shares knowledge with farmers from Czech Republic

CHRISTINE, N.D. - Larry Johnson has only ever wanted to be a farmer. This year, he is harvesting his 38th crop on the rural Christine farm where he grew up.

Larry Johnson (left), who farms near Christine, N.D., answers the questions of ag professionals from the Czech Republic, who are visiting his farm. Cody Rogness/The Forum
Larry Johnson (left), who farms near Christine, N.D., answers the questions of ag professionals from the Czech Republic, who are visiting his farm. Cody Rogness/The Forum

CHRISTINE, N.D. - Larry Johnson has only ever wanted to be a farmer. This year, he is harvesting his 38th crop on the rural Christine farm where he grew up. Johnson grows wheat, barley, soybeans and corn on 2,900 acres. And in the middle of harvest - as he was working to finish soybeans and about a week away from starting corn - he took some time to share his insights with ag professionals from the Czech Republic. About 30 farmers, agronomists, dealers and others in the ag sector visited Johnson's farm last week to learn about farming practices in the United States. "It's very interesting to see farms in the U.S.A. and those who don't see it cannot believe it," said Dusan Jaros, Czech Republic agronomist, through a translator. "There is so much difference in comparison with normal farms in Europe." The biggest difference, he said, is the size. The average North Dakota farm is 1,240 acres. In the Czech Republic, Jaros said the largest farms are about 22 to 74 acres, with many only 2½ to 5 acres. Though the farms here are much larger, both Jaros and Viktor Plachy, another Czech Republic agronomist, said they think farming in the United States is easier. "Here for the farmer is a little bit more easy to grow crops because in Europe there is more limitations for the pesticides, for the fertilizers, maximum usage what I can apply as a farmer," Jaros said. "From my point of view, agriculture here is a little bit easier because of, for example GMO crops," Plachy said through a translator. Genetically modified crops are not allowed in the Czech Republic, where farmers also grow wheat, barley and corn. Johnson said the introduction of seeds genetically modified to work with herbicides, like Roundup Ready corn and soybeans, has been one of the biggest changes in agriculture since he started farming.

Larry Johnson (left), who farms near Christine, N.D., answers the questions of ag professionals from the Czech Republic, who are visiting his farm. Cody Rogness/The Forum
Larry Johnson (left), who farms near Christine, N.D., answers the questions of ag professionals from the Czech Republic, who are visiting his farm. Cody Rogness/The Forum

"It made weed control a whole lot easier," he said. "It made it more effective." Before glyphosate (the active ingredient in Roundup), Johnson said he used a lot more chemicals, and weeds were still a problem. After he started using it, he said he noticed an increase in the earthworm population on his farm. "I can only assume it means we have a healthier environment in our soils," he said. Now that weeds like waterhemp are becoming glyphosate-resistant and are spreading, Johnson said he's waiting for new herbicides to be approved. The last time farmers from the Czech Republic visited his farm, in 2012, Johnson said area farmers were harvesting a record crop in the midst of record prices. This time, he told the visiting ag professionals prices are his second-biggest obstacle, right behind herbicide-resistant weeds. "Our inputs have gone up over the past few years in line with the higher commodity prices, so now that the commodity prices have come back down, it's leaving a pretty thin margin of profit," he said. "Even though our yields have been pretty decent this year, when it's all done, there's not a lot left over." The Czech Republic visitors also wanted to know about the weather, planting season and wildlife. Johnson told them beavers cause the most damage, cutting large crop circles into his fields. They were also interested in seeing his Case IH Quadtrac tractor, even stopping to take pictures with it. The group had visited Case's Fargo manufacturing facility the day before. "It's fun to hear these questions," Johnson said. "They're just eager for knowledge from the United States." Johnson said he also likes to learn what farming is like in other countries. He has had a few groups from different countries visit his farm over the years. And in the late 1990s he visited farms in Poland to advise them on ways to make their farms more efficient. "We all can learn something from someone else," he said.

Related Topics: AGRICULTURE
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