Stuart Swanson, Wright County

Farms: Corn, soybeans and hog operation

Conservation practices used: Buffer strips, wetland, CRP and manure management

The importance of soil testing: The most important part of our nutrient plan is soil testing – every acre shouldn’t be treated the same. We have been testing soil on 2½-acre grids since 2009. This is a livestock-dense area and we utilize manure on a rotating basis on a majority of our acres. Because the soil is tested, we use a variable rate application to increase efficiencies.

Effectively managing nutrients: In addition to intensely managing manure, we knew it was better for the soil and water quality to limit fall anhydrous applications. Most of the nitrogen is applied during the growing season and a stabilizer is added to the little bit of fall anhydrous that’s applied. Placing the right nutrient at the right rate on the field based on soil sampling improves crop productivity enough to offset the cost of testing.

“I feel compelled to tell my story because the way I’m doing things might encourage someone to try something new.”

Conservation practices provide added benefits: Buffer strips minimize erosion and loss of nutrients from fields. We have more than 5 miles of buffers to keep phosphorus, which binds to the soil, from moving into the water supply.

Improving efficiencies: Land that was only producing a crop two out of every 10 years was put into the wetlands program. While there is a cost associated with taking land out of production, there are costs associated with keeping underproducing ground in production. We have improved the efficiencies of the farm and I’m satisfied knowing this decision has a positive impact on water quality.

Advice for farmers: There are several resources farmers can use to improve soil health. Sign up for Iowa Corn’s Stewardship Advocate program to stay up to date on conservation program news and upcoming meetings. Go to field days and meetings and learn what’s happening on other farms.