I want to be known as a responsible farmer that isn’t afraid to find creative solutions. This takes a different way of thinking. I try to continually learn how to do things better.

Roger Zylstra

Jasper County

Farming Operation

  • 2nd-generation family farm in Jasper County in central Iowa; son Wesley involved
  • Corn and soybean rotation as well as continuous corn acres
  • 75% of ground classified as highly erodible; remainder is less rolling
  • Hog finishing units; manure integrated into nutrient plan
  • Vice president of the Iowa Corn Promotion Board, involved with county Farm Bureau and a local marketing club
  • Enrolled in the Soil Health Partnership


4R Plus Practices Used

  • No-till on rotation ground
  • Vertical-till on continuous corn acres
  • Contours and grassed waterways on rolling ground; has a pond
  • Cover crop is mixture of cereal rye and oats
  • 75% of land injected with manure in the fall
  • Starter fertilizer positions nutrients near the seed
  • Variable-rate prescribed by testing
  • Extensive history of soil testing from grid to manage nutrient timing, placement and rate

Results Seen

  • Cover crops control erosion, build organic matter and protect water quality
  • Cover crops capture nitrogen and control weeds to lower input costs
  • Cover crops firm the ground for manure application process; help with water infiltration
  • Vertical tillage breaks down cornstalks, reduces erosion and has boosted yields
  • Applying only the nutrients needed saves on input costs and protects the water

Plans for the Future

  • Fertilizer rate trials and trying different products to maximize efficiency of N, P and K
  • Incorporate learnings from Soil Health Partnership to improve soil resiliency
  • Keep precision farming technology up to date
  • Investigate ways to manage nutrients for grain development
  • Improve cover crop establishment in the fall to boost soil benefits


Click here to ask Roger a question about his farm.

Spring 2019: No-Till Improves Planting Conditions

Spring is an exercise in patience for farmers and it’s a virtue Jasper County Iowa farmer Roger Zylstra has practiced for many years. He’s glad he was introduced to no-till in the ’60s when his father led the operation, as it keeps him from being overly anxious about getting into the fields in the spring.

“Last fall was a reminder that no-till is the way to go if you want to keep the soil in place and improve its structure to support machinery,” he said in regard to the long, drawn-out harvest. “I’m thankful our fields don’t have big ruts to repair this spring.”

Zylstra says farmers in his area might be getting nervous because it was too wet in the fall for tillage and nitrogen applications. He recognizes that every farm operation is different, but he has had longtime success keeping yields trending higher in his no-till system.

Click here for the full story.