You can no longer be a farmer in the United States and not at least heard of cover crops. They come in many shapes and forms, depending on your land. In Iowa, cereal rye seems to be the favorite among many farmers. The push is to see more and more farmers converting acres to cover crops to mitigate erosion and runoff problems. However, one Washington County farmer is adjusting his practices to cut way back on his use of herbicides.
Michael Vittetoe farms in the Southeastern part of Iowa. He says their multi-generational farm is about 1,400 acres and confinement hogs. Conservation farming is nothing new to their family. His father and grandfather started no-till practices back in the ’80s and they have continued to expand their usage to cover about 95% percent of their crops today. He talks about what they found as they got started in this practice.
By combining their cover crop practices with the usage of the manure produced at their own hog facility, they are seeing the reduction of the need for additional phosphorus and potassium. They are still supplementing their nitrogen but as needed due to the situation every year. They are also tweaking the application of hog manure to make it work more efficiently for their operation.
Vittetoe says they have been constantly tweaking their cover crop usage to help them control weeds. In 2020, Vittetoe says they barely used any herbicides on their soybean acres.
Vittetoe says above all else, the value from cover crops comes from the lowering of erosion. While we do not put a dollar value on erosion, the soil is the most important component in agriculture. Without healthy soil, nothing else matters.
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