For two planting seasons in a row, saturated soils have tested Roger Wuthrich’s patience. On his farm in southeast Iowa, the conservation practices that have been used for several years, like no-till, cover crops and miles of terraces and waterways, help absorb excess moisture in case there’s a repeat this spring.
Originally, those practices were put in place to eliminate erosion. “I can’t stand to see soil leave the farm,” he said. “In this part of the country, the soil erodes quickly if you don’t protect it. We’ve put in miles of terraces and after the last couple of years, we’ve had to do a lot of repairs and we’re not quite done with those.”
Wuthrich’s goal is to no-till as many acres as possible because it also improves soil structure, helping him get into the fields sooner. Since adding organic SRW wheat production to his farming system to diversify income and crops, he’s able to make comparisons.
SRW wheat is planted on his most level ground and he notices it’s a lot softer than the no-till acres. “You definitely don’t go in the wheat ground after it rains, but I can plant the other ground because of the improved soil structure that goes with no-till and come back to the softer soil when it’s firmer,” he added.
On the dedicated organic ground, he rotates from winter wheat to corn and then soybeans. Since it’s tilled to control weeds, he always plants a cover crop. “Cover crops suppress weeds, improve organic matter and hold the soil in place,” he said. “Due to excessive moisture last fall, we didn’t have the opportunity to seed as many acres to cover crops as we like, so we prioritized the acres that needed them the most.”
He also made the investment in a new planter to combat compaction. “Instead of all the weight near the center of the planter, it’s distributed more evenly,” he said. “This investment should improve soil health.”
Grid soil sampling determines the prescription in which fertilizer is applied. “We’re working on balancing all the nutrients in our soils – not just the P and K. We’re trying to get trace minerals balanced as well,” he said. “We are on the right path, but there’s always room for improvement.”
This fall, Wuthrich hopes to get back to seeding all the acres to cover crops. “I wish I had known about cover crops a long time ago and where to use them,” he said. “Besides controlling erosion, soil tests tell me they are recycling nutrients and improving organic matter.”
Click here to ask Roger a question about his farming operation.