Our family is committed to being good stewards to the land. We cherish our land and take care of it. We look for ways to farm smarter by using 4R Plus practices.

Mark Heckman

Muscatine County

Farming Operation

  • 3rd-generation family farm in Muscatine County in southeast Iowa, with several family members involved
  • Corn and soybeans on a variety of flat and rolling ground
  • Soil type varies among silt, clay loam and sand
  • Cow-calf and wean-to-finish hog operations
  • Past president and current at-large board member, Iowa Corn Promotion Board
  • Trade Policy Advisory Team rep., U.S. Grain Council
  • Enrolled in the Soil Health Partnership


4R Plus Practices Used

  • Most ground is no-till, with a minimum of conservation tillage used
  • Contour farming is used on rolling ground
  • Plants cover crops and has ground in the WRP and CRP
  • Buffer strips, drainage ditches and grassed waterways
  • Tests soil in two-and-a-half-acre grids in the fall to determine nutrient plan for crop removal rate
  • Tests manure for N, P and K; uses stabilizers
  • Monitors rainfall and conducts tissue tests for nitrogen; side-dress if needed

Results Seen

  • Cover crops protect the soil, add organic matter, improve water-holding capacity and drainage
  • No-till keeps the soil undisturbed and improves microbial growth in the soil
  • Economic benefits of no-till include time, equipment and fuel savings
  • Nutrient plan maximizes efficiency of input purchases
  • Applying nutrients in the root zone maximizes crop uptake and protects water
  • Practices have accelerated yield curve for his crops

Plans for the Future

  • Looking into new practices and products that benefit the soil by keeping it in place and improving microbial growth
  • Researching ways to improve water quality more efficiently
  • Looking into practices that improve soil health over the long term
  • Interested in harvesting some cover crop for seed




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

Harvest 2019: Conservation Practices Deliver Results

The corn and soybean crops on Heckman Farms in Muscatine County, Iowa, weathered their share of storms during the 2019 growing season, says Mark Heckman. A wet planting season left some acres unplanted, dryness set in during the middle of the growing season and then rains returned to result in a wet, prolonged harvest.

He’s glad conservation practices like no-till and cover crops are well established, as they deliver benefits that make a difference. “While the weather was less than ideal in 2019, we are still seeing benefits from soil health improving,” he said.

He will take a deeper dive into yield data when soil test results are available.

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Summer 2019: Conservation Maximized a Wet Planting Season

Mark Heckman of Heckman Farms in Muscatine County only needed seven days to plant the 2019 corn and soybean crops. Unfortunately, his planting window extended from May 6 to June 7. But by the time planting began, the cover crops had established good growth and were doing their job of suppressing weeds.

Heckman’s ground is more forgiving because they have been no-tilling and using cover crops for several years. “The cover crops helped to move the moisture down deeper into the soil. That, along with our no-till and conservation tillage practices, have dramatically improved the structure of the soil and helps to allow us to get into the fields without creating substantial damage,” he said.

During the wet spring, it was apparent this year’s crop would be planted in less-than-ideal conditions.

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Spring 2019: Waiting for ‘Just Right’ Soil Conditions

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.”

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.

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