Farmers to Share Their Soil Health Decisions

Jamie JohansenAg Group, Farmers, Soil

Iowa Power farming ShowFarmers attending this year’s Iowa Power Farming Show in Des Moines February 3-5 can learn how other Midwest farmers are making decisions that improve the health of their soil, along with yields, profits and environmental outcomes.

An educational program “Building Farmer Wealth with Soil Health” will focus on what “soil health” means, practically, when farmers make decisions about soil sampling, fertilizer application and rates, reduced tillage, tiling, and cover crops, says program manager Dan Zinkand.

“While farmers can’t control crop prices, they can decide how to improve soil organic matter, water infiltration and drainage — which influence how soon they can get into plant in the spring — as well as how they sample their soil and when and how they fertilize crops,” says Zinkand. “They can also decide whether to try cover crops, a practice that’s vital to soil health in a corn-soybean rotation. These decisions not only improve yields and profitability, but also enhance environmental performance.”

One-hour sessions in the “Building Farmer Wealth with Soil Health” workshop will run from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Tuesday, February 3 and Wednesday, February 4 and 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Thursday, February 5 in Hy-Vee Hall, Rooms 107-108.

Farmers and scientists with years of experience will explain why and how to build healthy soils—those with high organic matter, high microbial activity, stable structure, high water infiltration rates and other characteristics that produce higher yields long term.

Topics include bringing dead soils back to life; using the Haney soil test to measure life in the soil; practical tools to use in building soil health; sophisticated soil sampling that leads to better fertilizer decisions; and reasons for inter-seeding cover crops into standing corn and soybeans.

Major sponsors for this year’s program include forage and cover crops seed producer Saddle Butte Ag, which has dealers in Iowa and other Midwestern states; Kimberley Ag Consulting, a firm known for its decades of corn meter calibration expertise, as well as on-farm consulting for plantability and fertilizer application; KB Seed Solutions, a supplier of cover crops seeds with dealers across the Corn Belt; and the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship, which offers programs to increase the use of cover crops