Super-Sized Equipment Not Suited for Highly Erodible Ground

Iowa Farm Scene

Matching machinery size to soil conservation needs on Iowa's steep slopes.

Published on: February 14, 2014

A regular contributor to Wallaces Farmer magazine, Jason Johnson has written an article that will appear in our March issue about how to match machinery size to soil conservation needs when farming Iowa's steep slopes. As machinery gets wider, particularly planters, this is getting to be a big concern in local soil and water conservation district offices in the state. The increasing size of farm machinery is making it more difficult for row crop farmers to maneuver Iowa's hillier ground.

Jason is a public affairs specialist for USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service in Iowa. When he sent me his article and photo (see accompanying photo) I thought about titling the photo "HERE COME THE REGS" because that's what some people will think when they see the picture; they'll say tougher regulations are needed to control soil erosion and prevent nutrient loss.

NO CONSERVATION: This farmer in the Loess Hills is planting down the hill, instead of along the contour. There are also no visible conservation practices, such as residue management, terraces or grass waterways to help reduce risk of erosion.
NO CONSERVATION: This farmer in the Loess Hills is planting down the hill, instead of along the contour. There are also no visible conservation practices, such as residue management, terraces or grass waterways to help reduce risk of erosion.

If you want crop insurance, you'll have to control erosion
But the new, tougher regs are here. The 2014 Farm Bill signed into law on Feb. 7 ties conservation compliance to crop insurance. To be eligible for coverage, you'll have to control erosion. USDA still needs to write the rules to figure out how to carry this out, but the law is on the books. We've had conservation compliance as a requirement for USDA farm program eligibility since the 1985 Farm Bill but now it applies to crop insurance, too.

The farmer in the photo is farming in the Loess Hills of western Iowa and is planting down the hill, instead of along the contour. There are also no visible conservation practices, such as residue management, terraces or grassed waterways to help reduce the risk of erosion. He'll have to change this if he wants to remain eligible for crop insurance coverage.

Following are some excerpts from Jason's article
Iowa's soil and water conservation advocates are asking farmers to match machinery size with their conservation needs when farming Iowa's steep slopes. Large, wide equipment is often difficult to maneuver around many of Iowa's traditional conservation practices, causing many farmers to reduce or eliminate conservation where it is most needed.