Lance Lillibridge, Benton County

Farms: Corn, soybeans, alfalfa and cattle

Conservation practices used: Strip-till, no-till, cover crops and waterways

Getting started with strip-till: I was turning the soil black and knew there was a better way. I was interested in eliminating erosion and improving nutrient management. I attended field days and meetings that piqued my interest about strip-till. I built a strip-till bar in 2008 and have been doing it ever since.

Benefits of strip-till: The earthworm population has exploded and the soil’s water-holding capacity has greatly improved. Making fewer passes across the field saves fuel and time. Now I spend that time with my family. My input costs have declined by 30% to 40% and I have eliminated equipment, which makes my farming operation much more efficient.

“Protecting the soil makes it more resilient for the crops now and in the future. If you want different results, you need to try something new.”

Adding cover crops: In 2016 we did the first aerial application of cover crops and let the cattle out to graze. Cover crops add another mode of erosion control. Grid soil testing reveals an increase in organic matter and soil fertility, which reduces the amount of fertilizer that’s used.

Harvesting results: My yields keep getting better. I realize seed genetics continue to improve, but I also attribute some of the yield improvement to improved soil health. Yields are especially impressive considering fewer inputs are used.

Continual improvement: Changing how we farm has changed the bottom line. That gives me incentive to be on the lookout for ways to improve. I’m currently looking into methods that enhance nitrogen sequestering because I believe it has economic and environmental benefits.