Muscatine County farmer Mark Heckman of Heckman Farms says his greatest concern this spring is combating the mentality to rush to get fieldwork done. He knows it takes patience and it pays to wait until soil conditions are just right.

Heckman is thankful the fall manure application was completed, but has some spring applications that need to be done. “We also try to push as much of our nitrogen applications to the spring,” he said. “Our applicator reduces air pressure in the tires, which allows them to get into the fields when others have to wait. This also helps reduce soil compaction.”

The Heckman family assess conservation practices that bring benefits to their farm. Photo: Iowa Corn

Because of the long harvest season last fall, some of their planned cover crop acres did not get seeded. “We plan to plant some of those acres yet this spring, especially in areas that aren’t as well drained. We want to get a root established and build organic matter,” he said.

Before the cover crop is terminated he likes to see at least three good days in a row of growth. “Getting that growth is important because it lowers our reliance on herbicides throughout the growing season,” he said.

After inspecting fields and pastures through the winter and early spring, Heckman said he has some waterways and field borders that need attention. “Keeping an eye on these things is important to us because we want to limit erosion,” he said. “We also have some tiles to place to create a buffer and dam in order to hold the water back in the places where erosion is more of a concern.”

For the 2019 growing season, Heckman Farms will be implementing nutrients to prescription based on soil samples. “For example, we know the pH in different areas of the field and can do things more specific within fields,” he said, noting the importance of maintaining high yields with fewer inputs to save money.

Heckman wishes he had started soil sampling on a more finite grid much sooner. “We are learning a lot about nutrients and manure management. Being effective in everything we do – putting on the right amount, in the right place and at the right time – protects yields and profit margins,” he said.

Click here to ask Mark a question about his farming operation.