Soil health is sparking new interest in how farmers look at managing farms. It’s exciting to learn new things – it keeps me engaged in what I’m doing.

Doug Adams

Humboldt County

Farming Operation

  • 6th-generation family farm in Humboldt County in north-central Iowa
  • Corn and soybeans on mostly flat landscape
  • 10 percent of land is classified as Prairie Pothole and is enrolled in the Conservation Reserve Program
  • Active in local and state Farm Bureau, and local Iowa Corn and Iowa Soybean Association boards




4R Plus Practices Used

  • No-till on soybean acres; strip-till on corn
  • Cover crops on all acres
  • Conservation cover on CRP ground; grassed waterways and filter strips where needed
  • Spring nitrate test determines amount of N for corn; applied in strips with half in spring and remainder side-dressed
  • Soil samples determine rate of application for side-dressing
  • Cornstalks tested to verify crop utilization of nutrients
  • P and K applications based on crop-removal rate

Results Seen

  • No-till system saves on equipment and fuel costs; saves time for off-farm employment
  • Avg. per-acre cover crop cost of $34 provides soil health benefits: improved water-holding capacity and infiltration
  • Cover crops recycle nutrients to utilize input investment
  • No- and strip-till system with cover crops keeps nutrients in place; improves soil structure to support equipment
  • Cover crops suppress weeds, which reduces herbicide costs; helpful late in the season when water hemp germinates

Plans for the Future

  • Investigating how to seed cover crops early in the corn-growing season to increase biological diversity and release nutrients tied up in the soil to reduce fertilizer rates
  • Looking into strip cropping to improve the plant’s access to light in order to boost yields
  • Considering harvesting some of the cereal rye cover crop and following with second-crop soybeans to generate additional income

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Harvest 2019: Adjusting Plans Key to This Northern Iowa Farmer’s Success

Humboldt County, Iowa, farmer Doug Adams is pleased with near-trend corn and soybean yields, considering a wide variety of weather conditions through the 2019 growing season. He learned a lot about the soil this year and made adjustments to his plans along the way.

“It seems like something was always going on to be nervous about,” he said regarding the weather. “We didn’t have an abundance of rain this spring, but the continual showers resulted in late planting and that translated into a later-than-usual start to harvest.”

Adams saw more yield variability than normal this year because of the cool, damp conditions in the spring that impeded emergence.

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Summer 2019: Cover Crops Provide Multiple Benefits

Humboldt County farmer Doug Adams had a plan A for the spring planting season, but wet conditions forced him to make some adjustments. Despite less-than-ideal weather so far this growing season, he’s optimistic corn and soybeans have near-trend yield potential.

Corn planting began April 22 and wrapped up May 16. He made it a priority to get the corn planted on a new piece of land, which is a wet farm and was tilled in the fall by the previous owner. He planted it first because it was mostly dry early in the spring, and being across the road from his house gave him the ability to fill in wet spots later. But that’s the only piece of ground that was planted in April. “We had rain and even some snowfall in late April,” he said.

On May 4, his rye cover crop was terminated and corn planting resumed.

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Spring 2019: No- and Strip-Till System has Benefits During Planting Season

A wet spring isn’t a new occurrence for Humboldt County farmer Doug Adams. But following a wet harvest adds to the concern of farmers in his area that didn’t get their fall tillage work complete.

Due to the soggy harvest season, Adams, a no- and strip-till farmer, wasn’t able to make his strips for the 2019 corn crop. If he can’t get the strips made this spring, he will resort to plan B. “If it stays wet and gets late in the planting season, I will go ahead and no-till the corn crop this spring,” he said. “The advantage of the strips for the corn is the warmer soil temperature in the seed zone. But if we’re delayed, soil temperature shouldn’t be a concern.”

Adams also uses the strips for fertilizer placement, but this will be broadcast if Mother Nature forces his hand. “My plan is to take a look at those fields by pulling some soil samples to see how broadcasting affected the fertility. I want to make sure I’m replacing what was removed in those fields.”

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