Don’t be alarmed: Low-flying helicopters to drop seeds on area fields

  • A helicopter drops seed on local crops during a conservation initiative by the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service last year. Contributed Photo/Robert Purcell Contributed by Robert Purcell, Soil Conservationist, USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service—Robert Purcell

  • A helicopter drops seed on local crops during a conservation initiative by the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service last year. Contributed Photo/Robert Purcell Contributed by Robert Purcell, Soil Conservationist, USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service—Robert Purcell

  • A helicopter drops seed on local crops during a conservation initiative by the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service last year. Contributed Photo/Robert Purcell Contributed by Robert Purcell, Soil Conservationist, USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service—Robert Purcell

  • A helicopter drops seed on local crops during a conservation initiative by the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service last year. Contributed Photo/Robert Purcell Contributed by Robert Purcell, Soil Conservationist, USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service—Robert Purcell

Recorder Staff
Published: 8/2/2016 11:22:47 PM

DEERFIELD — Don’t be surprised to see low-flying aircrafts over fields beginning later this month. There’s nothing suspicious going on; they’ll be flying for healthy soil.

For the second year in a row, starting Aug. 10 and continuing until the middle of September, helicopters will be dropping winter rye grass seed on local cropland as part of a conservation initiative put forward by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

“It was very popular last year with local farms,” said Diane Baedeker Petit, media contact for the Northeast Regional Conservation Service, about the success of the seed drops. “It’s good for the community because it helps protect the natural resources of the entire community.”

According to a news release, the seed drops “establish a ‘cover crop’ that will protect the soil after the main crop is harvested.”

Farms participate in the program voluntarily and receive “financial and technical assistance for the conservation practice” from the conservation service and the Environmental Quality Incentives Program.

Deerfield is one of several area towns with farms participating in the program. Other towns include Conway, Sunderland, Greenfield, Northfield and Buckland.

The grass seed improves soil health by inter-seeding “into a crop such as corn,” so it’s “already established when the crop is harvested a few weeks later.”

“To a bystander, it might look unusual to see a helicopter flying low over neighboring farms,” said Rita Thibodeau, district conservationist for Franklin County with the Northeast Regional Conservation Service, who’s in charge of coordinating the project. “We’d like residents to know that they needn’t be concerned and understand that their farm neighbors are caring for the land by participating in this project.

“It’s a very controlled seed application,” she continued, adding that the helicopters use GPS to distribute the seed. “One of the big principles of soil health is to keep something growing on the surface of the ground at all time.”

The seed project isn’t just for Franklin County: farms across the state, from Plymouth to Berkshire counties, are also participating in the project.

You can reach Andy Castillo

at: acastillo@recorder.com

or 413-772-0261, ext. 263

On Twitter: @AndyCCastillo


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