The rain may have chased us indoors, but it did not chase away those wanting to learn more about strip-tillage and cover crops on Tuesday. About 40 people attended the field day to hear from local farmer Mark Thompson and Iowa NRCS State Agronomist Barb Stewart.
Thompson has been strip-tilling for the last 12 years and has experienced many benefits from reducing the amount of tillage done on his land. What began as a purely economic goal of reducing trips across the field and fuel consumption, soon began to show other benefits through soil conservation and residue management. Thompson uses RTK/GPS to put in the strips each spring, but does not rely on them for planting since the planter is able to stay within the strips efficiently. Through some equipment modification, Thompson and his partners have constructed a strip-tillage bar that fits well into their operation, even in continuous corn. By applying fertilizer directly into the strips, the number of trips he makes through the field was reduced again, limiting soil compaction.
Although new to cover crops, Thompson has seen the benefits of keeping the soil covered during the brown months of the year. He had 600 acres of preventative planting last year and used a mixture of winter-kill cover crops: oats, cowpeas, radish, and sugar beets. Due to the early planting of the mixture, he was able to see significant growth from the different species before the frost came.
Stewart provided great technical support about strip-tillage and cover crops. She discussed many benefits including reducing water and wind erosion by leaving some of the residue undisturbed, improving soil organic matter, and the conservation of fuel resources. Stewart also shared her experiences as a landowner working with beginning farmers who utilize strip-tillage and cover crops on her land.
You know what they say about all work and no play… So on the way home the ILF staff stopped at the local mini-golf course and had a great time playing a competitive round!
Liz Juchems and Tiffany Eberhard prepare to dominate the course.