Theo Bartman, Sioux County

“I’m a big advocate for soil health and no-till, especially for the younger generation that has a long future ahead of them in farming. If I can help one guy start with no-till and cover crops, it’s a good thing.”
Farms: Corn, soybeans, cattle

Conservation practices used: Cover crops, no-till

When did you start these practices? Because of the drought, in 2012 the crop didn’t use all the nitrogen we put down. It was recommended that we plant a cover crop to sequester some of the nitrogen in the fall. We didn’t get very much growth to our cover crop because it remained dry, but it came up in the spring and we no-tilled into it. We saw immediate benefits and have been using these two practices since then.

Benefits: Because of that first success, I began doing more research and found there were many more benefits to conservation practices besides erosion control. In 2016 we adapted to 100 percent no-till and at that point we were able to get rid of a tractor. Because of the reduced tillage, we have also saved a lot of money on fuel and labor.

Since we are livestock producers, we’re also seeing the benefits through our manure management plan. Once we get good growth on the cover crop, we are able to spread the beef manure over it to help sequester some of the nutrients, and that helps with water quality and soil health.

Challenges: One of the biggest challenges was convincing my dad to try some of these things. But he has seen the benefits and he knows we’re saving money and stopping erosion and keeping good yields.

Benefits of the Soil Health Partnership: I wanted to do a plot with cover crops and without to see the benefits. I’m glad I found the partnership, as they were willing to help me with the data as well as setting up the plot. We have learned a lot from other farmers and agronomists at the Soil Health Summit.

Advice for other farmers: I’ve learned a lot about cover crops on YouTube. But I also encourage farmers to start on a small portion of their acres. Implementing a cover crop plan is a learning process. If you fail once, don’t give up. Instead, make management changes to make it successful. A failure is a very good learning opportunity.