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Conservation Tillage
Get set for a wet spring

Last fall’s prolonged harvest and wet conditions didn’t leave much time to get fieldwork done, such as tillage and fertilizer application. It’s hard to get a handle on how much work is being pushed into this spring. But from talking to colleagues around the state and to farmers and fertilizer dealers at winter meetings, there will be plenty to do before the corn planters roll.

Cover crop choice depends on fields

Looking across the 14 different cover crop plots on Tom Finkenbine’s farm, it’s natural to wonder which one’s the best. But no one crop will be best for every situation.

On the ground floor

If he were a tree, David Granatstein says he would enjoy a nice mulch blanket. “Where we put on organic mulches in the orchard, we often see roots grow from the soil up into the mulch,” says the Washington State University sustainable agriculture specialist.

Tips for orchard floor management

With a decade of orchard floor management research under their belts, Washington State University scientists offer an extensive list of findings to share with growers.

CSP aids farm’s green regime

More than four decades of conserving soil and attracting wildlife is paying off for the Bensink family of rural Pleasantville in southern Iowa. The Bensinks signed a five-year contract in 2010 to receive payments through USDA’s Conservation Stewardship Program, or CSP, to further enhance their environmentally friendly 468-acre farm.

It’s all a matter of timing

For Winters, Texas, producer Roger Kruse, a workable rotation is all a matter of timing — especially when dealing with crop rotations along with cattle in the equation. Some luck comes in handy, too, as in rains occasionally blessing the area. Cattle, wheat and cotton work together well.

Mr. Soil Saver

Troy Hattery doesn’t think he does anything special. He just does what comes naturally — farming and serving as a Miami County Soil and Water Conservation District supervisor, hoping to conserve resources not only on his own farm, but also in his county and community.

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?

Cut down on tillage

Even more than usual, grain prices are a hot topic of conversation this fall. Under the circumstances, it’s easy to forget that fuel prices are also the highest we’ve seen since 2008, including more than 100 million gallons of off-road diesel fueling Iowa’s tractors and combines.

A terrace design for gentle slopes

A new type of terrace is lining the southern Iowa landscape. Grass-front farmable back-slope terraces are a growing trend on gently sloping cropland (1% to 6% slopes). These types of terraces are getting more popular because they are less expensive to construct than broad-base terraces and easier to farm around than narrow-base or grass back-slope terraces.

Conservation champs honored

Each year, outstanding conservationists are recognized throughout the state with the Iowa Conservation Farmer of the Year award. It may be for teaching youth about the environment, caring for a windbreak, hosting no-till field days and volunteering to teach others.

Bigger is better in direct seeding

Bigger is better when it comes to the economics of direct seeding, but there are ways for smaller wheat growers to take advantage of the technology’s cost-saving benefits.

Time to talk ‘soil health’

If there is such thing as an evangelist for soil quality, it’s Ray Archuleta. A specialist with the Natural Resources Conservation Service in North Carolina, he traveled to Indiana to spread the message about the importance of soil health.

Texas grower finds Joker tillage tool saves time on field

Daryl Wynn is saving money on tillage — and doing it better and faster than ever at Booker, Texas, high in the northeast Panhandle right along the Oklahoma border.

Starter response tied to tillage

Whether or not applying starter fertilizer pays is an age-old debate. However, many believe that as you cut down on tillage, the equation changes.

New tech can up profits

Clint Abernathy lost almost his entire cotton crop during the 2011 drought, and wasn’t the only Altus, Okla., grower who was severely impacted. Many irrigated acreages lost serious numbers as Lake Altus-Lugert, the area’s primary source of irrigation water, couldn’t keep ahead of the heat and precipitation deficit.

Family tradition

Contour strips that were laid out on 183 acres in 1944 are still there on Dan and Sherry Hanson’s farm. Dan’s grandfather worked with the Soil and Water Conservation Service back then in developing a conservation plan for the rolling landscape on the family’s Fillmore County farm.

Duo’s goal: more no-till corn acres

Indiana’s conservation partners have teamed up again. They’re rekindling the effort to increase no-till corn acres in Indiana. This time they’ve enlisted not one but two seasoned conservation veterans. Hans Kok and Dan Towery are coordinators of Indiana’s new Conservation Cropping Systems Initiative.

Soil erosion not welcome here

The Indiana Association of Soil and Water Conservation Districts recently honored five outstanding families. Each received a Conservation Farmer of the Year award.

Read before going to the field!

Remember the camera commercials at Christmas that show packages with the tag “Open me first”? The tag on this story could be “Read me before you plant.”

Save with fewer trips

As row crop-budgets tighten and producers cover more acres, it’s important to evaluate each field operation. Data from the Nebraska Farm Business Association indicates that two of the most important factors when evaluating the profitability of the members’ farming enterprises were yields and input costs. The high-profit third of the enterprises were above average on crop yields produced and below average on input costs.

New information sheets from ILF

The Iowa Learning Farm has recently created a series of information sheets addressing soil and water quality topics. There are four handouts titled “Iowa Watersheds,” “Transition to No-till,” “Water Quality and Conservation Practices” and “Economics of Residue.”

Residue management begins in fall

With higher yield goals, higher plant populations and aggressive fertilization, growers need to manage increased amounts of crop residue to establish productive stands the following year.

Wise on water

Whether dealing with irrigated or dryland cotton, Chris Bubenik aims to use and stretch water in his arid Concho Valley region efficiently.

BMPs are vital with re-registration of herbicide atrazine

As part of the re-registration of the popular herbicide atrazine, farmers should adopt best management practices, or BMPs, to prevent runoff and ensure that atrazine remains a viable product, says a University of Missouri Extension water quality specialist.

Conservation drainage cuts nitrate loss

Some call it conservation drainage. It’s a relatively new practice, especially in the Midwest, that’s designed to help farmers keep crop yields up and at the same time cut the amount of nitrates leaving crop fields through underground drainage tile.

CREP: 10 years of rebuilding Iowa wetlands

The Iowa Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program, or CREP, celebrates its 10th anniversary in 2011. At the 2001 Iowa State Fair, the Iowa CREP agreement was signed, which created the water quality program.

Sheep keep soil in place at Green Dirt Farm

Military families know the drill. At the end of three or four years in one location, it’s time to pack up the house and move on to another destination. Each move brings new opportunities, people to meet and places to discover.

Tom Harris: an innovator or a mad scientist?

The first time you meet Tom Harris, he just seems like your average farmer — a down-to-earth, seasoned veteran of up times and down, and always on the lookout to improve his results.

$3,500 v-till tool does the job

After seeing November’s vertical tillage, or v-till, articles, Karl Hess of Conestoga, Pa., shared his own experience. He purchased a used 14-foot disk harrow for $1,200 and converted it for vertical tillage in May 2008 — all for $3,300 to $3,500.