Farms: Corn, soybeans, cattle feedlot, a few cow-calf pairs and a hog operation
Conservation practices used: Manure from livestock as a nutrient resource for crops, chops silage for cattle and then uses oat and radish crops as a cover to protect that soil once the crop is chopped, contour farming, terraces, split application of nitrogen
Why cover crops? Cover crops help me run a more sustainable, full-circle system between my livestock and corn and soybeans by protecting the soil. Erosion and water quality are big concerns for farmers. Cover crops can reduce erosion, improve overall soil health and ultimately reduce impact on water quality by mitigating nitrate leaching. I can tell that my crops are less susceptible to wind and dust erosion. The cover crops help to hold the soil in place and keep the nutrients in the soil and out of water sources.
“I feel that water quality is every farmer’s responsibility and planting cover crops is one way that I can do my part.”
Value of conservation: Being in a multigenerational family farm, it’s important to preserve what we have. Sometimes we have to do things that don't have an immediate economic return, but what kind of economics do we put on losing the topsoil for the next generation or contaminating our groundwater? We all need to do our part … whether using cover crops, buffer strips or other conservation practices.
Advice for other farmers: There are many varieties of cover crops you can experiment with that will help tie up extra nitrogen that’s residual in the soil. I really encourage other farmers to give it a try, even if it’s only a few acres.