He used EQIP to overhaul farm
You have soil erosion problems to address. Should you seek government assistance? Should you rely on water and sediment control basins, called WASCOBs, or grass waterways?
Tom Menkedick, Westport, says those aren’t easy questions. It all depends upon each individual situation, he says. Recognized as a Conservation Farmer of the Year earlier in 2011, Menkedick has used every approach to improve his land — his own work, government assistance, and both WASCOBs and waterways.
• The EQIP program addresses numerous farm resource concerns.
• The shape of the land determines if a basin or waterway fits best.
• No-till reduces overall sediment load coming off a field.
USDA offers help through several cost-share programs, including the continuous Conservation Reserve Program, which allows you to complete a single practice at a time, and the Environmental Quality Incentives Program, which involves a longer commitment and a series of projects, all designed to make best use of farm resources and improve water quality.
Many of the projects Menkedick completed were part of an EQIP agreement. He created heavy-use pads where cattle spend most of their time, planted trees, and installed both basins and grass waterways.
He has his own small dozer and pan, and has used them to install waterways and build WASCOBs. The program typically allows cost-share for either doing the work yourself or hiring it done.
Why both waterways and basins? “Some longer, flatter areas where water still runs are more suited to grass waterways,” Menkedick says. “My local soil and water office and their technicians have been great to help me plan out what would best solve problems in various spots.”
So far, he’s installed a dozen basins. He can plant through all but one. Since its sides needed to be steeper, he grassed them down to help prevent further soil erosion. A tile riser in the middle of a WASCOB typically channels water collected to an underground tile, preventing it from washing through the field, carrying soil and fertilizer particles with it.
Both WASCOBs and waterways occasionally need maintenance, he says. If water starts meandering down the side of a waterway, it may be time to redo it, he notes. That usually involves cutting it deeper, then reseeding it with fescue and ryegrass, preferably in September. He uses straw blankets to make sure grass gets established before a big rain washes the seed out and creates new gullies.
The tool that makes all of these structures work better is no-till, Menkedick says. He’s no-tilled about 95% of his acreage over the past 20 years.
He’s concluded that a White planter set up for no-till works well for him. He runs a mixture of 28% nitrogen and 10-34-0 as starter when he plants.
“We run a no-till coulter out front, and we believe in seed firmers,” he says. He varies closing wheels in corn to fit conditions, but runs rubber wheels when splitting rows in 15-inch soybeans most of the time. A combination of conservation practices and no-till have helped him keep soil erosion in check, Menkedick concludes.
Erosion fighter: Tom Menkedick would rather keep soil on his rolling farm instead of watching it wash away. He uses a variety of soil conservation practices coupled with no-till to keep soil at home.
This article published in the July, 2011 edition of INDIANA PRAIRIE FARMER.
All rights reserved. Copyright Farm Progress Cos. 2011.