Soil Health Important To Demo Farmers

Taylor Truckeyagronomy, Cover Crops, Soil, Soil Health Partnership

Gordon Smiley

Gordon Smiley

The Soil Health Partnership (SHP) has a number of their demo farmers, the farmers who are implementing field size research trials over the next 5 years, at the Soil Health Summit this week. Hear from a few of them about their experiences so far in the program, and their hopes for what the next few years will bring.

Gordon Smiley is new to the demo farmer program, but he, and his brother he farms with, aren’t new to cover crops. “We’ve actually been doing cover crops for five years so we feel like we’re going to move along; we’re going to explore single species and multiple species.” Most farmers begin with a conventional tillage vs no-till field size strip trial, but with Gordon’s experience, they are going to take the research a little further.

With the cattle that they also have on the farm, Gordon is looking forward to implementing the relationship between livestock and cover crops in a few ways. “With the livestock operation, we’re really excited about the manure application being taken up by the cover crops in the fall so we don’t have to worry about nutrient release.”

Gordon and his brother both carry spades in their pickups and have made it a running contest to see how their soil is building. Recently they dug up a couple of corn plants with root systems 26 inches and 22 inches in length. Gordon explained, “That tells us it’s coming out of an earth worm channel. That’s very exciting.”

Listen to the rest of Gordon’s interview: [wpaudio url=”″ text=”Interview with Gordon Smiley, Indiana Farmer”]

Roger Zylstra

Roger Zylstra

Roger Zylstra, who farms 50 miles east of Des Moines, enrolled in the program in 2015 as well. The driving force behind his decision to join was wanting to improve their soil. As a former grain and livestock operation, Zylstra’s crop rotation used to be include hay; since they’ve sold the cows that isn’t the case any longer.

“One thing I was noticing was that I didn’t think my soil structure was holding as good as i would have liked it to on some of our more rolling ground that we farm. I decided that this a program that could help us identify and improve our soil structure.”

A year ago Zylstra did a small cover crop field on their own, and they have a neighbor who has been implementing cover crops. Zylstra was pleased with the results and is looking forward to learning from the members Soil Health Partnership as the next few years play out.

Zylstra is also a member of the Iowa Corn Board.

Listen to the rest of Roger’s interview: [wpaudio url=”″ text=”Interview with Roger Zylstra, Iowa Farmer”]

2016 Soil Health Summit Photo Album