Soil health field days promote agricultural evolution

Brent Bible practiced no-till farming and the use of cover crops on his farm in Lafayette, Indiana.

Until lately, this approach had been scattershot. Since joining the Soil Health Partnership in 2014, he can take a more disciplined approach, gaining a quantifiable understanding of the health of his soil and improvements in the efficacy of his operations.

The Soil Health Partnership and its demonstration network farmers hope to share ideas fueling the evolution of farming with other producers throughout the Midwest. The partnership will host soil health field days from August through the end of the year.

The field days will demonstrate how changing certain practices can create lasting environmental benefits while  increasing farm productivity and income. Examples of educational topics include:

•Cover crop benefits and integration into local cropping systems;
•Nutrient management and other strategies to improve soil health;
•Hands-on soil demonstrations; and
•Farmer panels to discuss local experiences with cover crops.

Cover crops have gained attention for improving soil health because they capture excess nitrogen left in the soil and put good plant residue back into the ground.

An initiative of the National Corn Growers Association, the partnership works closely with diverse organizations including commodity groups, industry, foundations, federal agencies, universities and well-known environmental groups toward the common goal of improving soil health.

“We encourage sound soil practices combined with scientific quantification of results from farmers taking positive actions,” Nick Goeser, partnership director, said. “Improved crop productivity, environmental gains and economic growth are all benefits of progressive soil management strategies.”

The partnership has scheduled about a dozen events in Iowa, Illinois and Indiana and anticipates dozens more in these and other Midwestern states throughout the summer and fall.

Bible plans on hosting one of the field days, where in part, he will share his success with cereal rye and oats on his farm. He also has experience with tillage cover such as turnips, radishes and snow peas.

“We have tried several different blends of cover crops, looking for the right combination,” he said. “It has had its challenges sometimes, but it has been a good experience overall. Our costs are lower, plus we have less erosion and runoff.”

Organizations in this story

National Corn Growers Association 632 Cepi Dr Chesterfield, MO - 63005

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