The Iowa Corn Growers Association recently held a Farmer to Farmer event focused on soil health at Iowa State University and also offered via live stream.
Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey moderated the discussion and noted progress that has been made since introducing the Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy three years ago. “We’re very proud of what farmers across the state are doing when it comes to conservation and water quality,” said Northey. “We’ve seen a lot of interest and adoption of cover crops because of the water quality benefits, and also because farmers see the long-term value that they have on soil quality.”
Iowa Corn Promotion Board President Mark Heckman shared the organization’s commitment to helping farmers be good stewards. “A priority for Iowa Corn is helping farmers be the best possible stewards of land and water resources, and this event was one way of doing that,” he explained. “We’re also very committed to working with the Soil Health Partnership, a corn-farmer led, 5-year initiative to help measure management practices that improve soil health.”
Iowa corn farmers Steve Berger, Jolene Riessen, and Jerry Mohr shared their experiences with conservation practices, such as no-till planting, cover crops and saturated buffer strips. “Forty years ago, we had no idea about soil health or soil quality, but I have really seen the changes over time since I started using cover crops,” said Berger, who farms in southeast Iowa.
Riessen and Mohr also are using cover crops and have seen the benefits first hand over the past few years. “We just had a historically wet December, and my neighbor’s terraces were filled with water while mine hadn’t even started to hold water yet,” said Mohr. “It’s not a process that’s easy to measure, but you start to see small improvements as time goes on.” Riessen agreed. “We use a number of conservation practices such as no till, cover crops that are used as a feed source for cattle, and we’re strong proponents of terraces and buffer strips,” she said. “Stewardship is so important to me because I have two boys coming back to farm and I want them to be able to farm.”