Mark Mueller, Bremer County

Farms: Corn, soybeans, alfalfa

Conservation practices used: Cover crops, no-till, buffer strips, terraces, grass waterways

Why cover crops? We started working with a dairy about 10 years ago. They use our corn for silage and the ground was left bare. We had a heavy rainstorm – something beyond our control – and I could just see the soil washing away. I immediately resolved to plant cover crops.

Value of cover crops: Since planting cover crops, I have noticed better weed control and the soil is staying in place better. Sometimes it’s hard to see past the short-term costs, but in the long run, cover crops are contributing to healthier soil that will mean better farming for my kids.

“It takes several centuries to restore an inch of topsoil, and just a few years to lose it. We need to do a better job of preserving it.”

Involvement in the Soil Health Partnership (SHP): My commitment to improving my soil led to my participation in the SHP, a National Corn Growers Association initiative. SHP is working to quantify the economic benefits of cover crops, like better weed control, less herbicide use and better profitability.

Advice for other farmers: Being this far north, rye is one of the more reliable grains that will stay dormant through winter and will come up in the spring. It grows quickly and has a tendency to smother weeds.