Harrison and Monona County farmer Curt Mether has had a tough spring. A quick snowmelt and excessive rains have damaged some of his terraces, but he knows it could be much worse. In fact, he’s seen the extensive damage south and east of where he farms.
“Our trouble is the water goes down the hills too quickly,” he said. “I have miles of terraces and have been growing crops on these hills with a no-till system for more than 20 years. I started growing cover crops six years ago because I want to rebuild organic matter lost to erosion.”
Mether overbuilds his terraces for years like this and will be doing the repair work himself. “Our terraces mostly held up and did their job of slowing the water down early this spring,” he said. “But there are a few places where the water came down too quickly.”
Topsoil is very valuable to Mether and he remains focused on preventing erosion and rebuilding his soil. “No-till and cover crops make a world of difference holding soil in place,” he said. “Being in this part of the state gives you more incentive to add conservation practices to save the soil.”
Noting the tight profit-margins situation farmers face this year, he likes to talk about the economic benefits of his no-till and cover crop system. “Besides saving the soil, I’m saving on equipment, fuel and labor costs. No-till ground also holds the water better and allows me to get into the fields a little earlier than most,” he said, adding that conservation practices are part of his farm’s long-term goal of growing high-yielding, profitable crops.
Mether wishes he had never used a disc on his soil, as it contributed to erosion. “Now we have more knowledge about soil conservation and how to preserve it,” he said. “It bothers me how much tillage is still happening on the sloping Iowa landscape, especially since we know it has contributed to our erosion issue.”
Still, he is hopeful that if he gets into the fields in a timely matter he will have another above-trendline crop. “No-till helps minimize yield variability. It’s possible to grow high-yielding corn on steep ground if you take care of it,” he said.
Click here to ask Curt a question about his farming operation.