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Christof Just kneels in a stand of forage grasses Lon Tonneson
AWARD WINNER: Christof Just planted forage barley, alfalfa and salt-tolerant grasses on cropland that wasn’t producing profitable grain yields.

Pheasants Forever names 2020 Precision Farmer of the Year

Christof Just, Berlin, N.D., was presented the award at the National Pheasant Fest and Quail Classic event.

Christof Just, who with the help of Pheasants Forever turned red acres green on his Berlin, N.D., farm, has been named Pheasants Forever’s 2020 Precision Farmer of the Year.

The award, bestowed upon one farmer each year as part of the Precision Ag Workshop at National Pheasant Fest and Quail Classic, recognizes the innovative use of precision ag technology to identify profitable solutions and targeted conservation practices for both agriculture and wildlife on working lands.

Just farms with his wife, Kelli, and their three children. In the summer of 2017, after speaking with Pheasants Forever at a soil conservation demonstration, Just concluded the family operation — suffering from frequent flooding, a rising water table and an increase in salty soils — could benefit from applying Pheasants Forever’s precision ag program to the cropland and identify the most unprofitable acres.

Just then restored 87 acres of marginal cropland in a 429-acre row crop field to forage production for his stock cows, increasing profits on the field by $22 per acre. Pheasants Forever’s precision ag program, along with funds available from the North Dakota Game and Fish Department through the Federal Aid in Wildlife Restoration Act, provided a 75% cost-share on forage barley, alfalfa and a salt-tolerant grass seed mixture to address salinity, rebuild soil health and create wildlife habitat.

He also restored 12.7 acres of marginal acres on the western side of a 60-acre row crop field to perennial forage production, connecting to adjacent pastureland, to increase his field average profitability by $63.79 per acre.

Just plans to identify more marginal areas in other fields and continue to establish perennials on those acres to better integrate livestock into a cash crop system.

“Pheasants Forever has been extremely helpful for making our farming and ranching operation more profitable in the long run, while protecting the environmental assets we care so much about,” Just said. “It was a pleasure to work alongside Melissa Shockman (a Pheasants Forever North Dakota precision ag and conservation specialist) and we look forward to future land improvements with her assistance.”

Pheasants ForeverMelissa Shockman, Pheasants Forever precision agriculture and conservation specialist, Christof Just and his wife, Kelli pose after presentation of Farmer of the Year award

PHEASANT FEST: Melissa Shockman (left), a Pheasants Forever precision ag and conservation specialist, and Christof Just and his wife, Kelli, of LaMoure, N.D., pose for a photo after the presentation of the Precision Farmer of the Year award at the National Pheasant Fest and Quail Classic.

“Christof and his family are great examples of agriculture producers who are utilizing advances in Ag technology to become more profitable, wildlife friendly, and prepared to tackle complex production strategies for the future,” Shockman said. “With his background in agronomy and having served on the La Moure County Soil Conservation Board for the last 15 years, it is rewarding to work with someone who has become an advocate for, and mentor to, his community regarding soil health and incorporating conservation into production agriculture.”

John Deere sponsors the Precision Farmer of the Year award.

For more information about Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever’s precision agriculture and conservation programs contact Ryan Heiniger, director of agriculture and conservation innovations, at rheiniger@pheasantsforever.org or 319 768-8348.

Pheasants Forever provided information for this report.
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