Bret Pierce, Boone County

Farms: Corn, soybeans, cow-calf

Conservation practices used: Vertical tillage, specialized nitrogen application, cover crops

Figuring out what works best: I have done some experimenting with tillage to determine what works best on our different types of soil. On our corn/soybean acres we use a vertical tillage machine to minimize disturbance to the soil. On our corn-on-corn acres we do more passes spoon-feeding the nitrogen with specialized equipment. I farm with my wife Liz and our two daughters, as well as my parents, and we view our conservation and nutrient management methods as a process of learning and adapting to new knowledge.

Cover crops improve the soil: I can see the improvements the rye cover crop is making to the soil. The root system goes down further to break up compaction and keeps microorganisms multiplying in the soil. As we increase acres planted to cover crops, we will be able to use some of the fields as a source of feed for our cows. But first I have some fences to rebuild.

Surprising results: In 2018, I planted soybeans into the cover crop in one field and in nearby fields my other soybeans were not planted into a cover crop. The cover crop took care of the weeds. In future years I know that I can reduce my herbicide applications because of cover crops.

“I’m thankful for the short-term impacts I have seen to the conservation methods we have added. But I’m also interested in what the long-term impacts to the soil structure will look like because of what we are doing right now.”

Be on the lookout for new ways: I’m constantly impressed with the innovation that is available to improve farming methods. I appreciate that people can do things differently to achieve their goals, and I enjoy learning what other people are doing and adopt some of their thinking – or bits and pieces of several ideas – that fit into my farming operation.

Start the conversation: I think it’s important for tenants and landowners to have a conversation about what conservation methods can be employed on the land. There is a lot of interest among farmers to improve soil health, and landowners should be open to a dialogue about sharing the costs.