In a high-yielding, irrigated environment, one broken nozzle 1,000 feet from the center affects water delivery on nearly two acres, and “could cost you $600-1,000 in lost corn yield,” says Joshua Stamper, University of Minnesota Extension irrigation specialist.
Illinois farmer Brian Parkinson thinks saturated buffers are a good fit for his farm. The conservation drainage practice diverts tile water before it reaches the outlet and reroutes it along the length of an existing grass buffer strip.
Farmed potholes are consistently less profitable than upland parts of fields, and often lose money, according to a recent analysis by the Iowa Soybean Association (ISA). Tight margins and increased attention to water quality make this a good time to scrutinize pothole performance on your farm, Adam Kiel says.
Roy Wendte aims to hit his problem weeds, waterhemp and marestail, with a one-two punch every time he sprays. He puts down soil-applied residuals on all his crop acres, and deploys “as many modes of action within a season as I can.”
Profitable weed management is all about when you control weeds, says Paul Johnson, South Dakota State University Extension weed scientist. A total POST program is risky — even if glyphosate is working well in your fields — because unfavorable weather often prevents timely herbicide applications.
Faced with wet or windy weather and heavy workloads, farmers want to know how much it will cost to delay weed control. The answer: plenty — even if you don’t have glyphosate-resistant weeds in your fields.
Although it’s only been three seasons since Scott Poen switched to no-till and strip-till, the soil is already responding, he says. Water infiltration has improved, and he hasn’t had to fix any washouts on sloping fields.
Twenty-four years of continuous no-till, plus a decade of cover cropping, has largely halted water erosion on Dan Gillespie's farm in northeastern Nebraska, he says. Soil biological activity is flourishing and soil organic matter has climbed by more than a third.
There are many innovative new tillage tools that loosen the soil and prepare the seedbed, while leaving more protective residue on the soil surface. But what if you’re not in the market for a new implement? You can still boost residue cover by switching to less aggressive points on your chisel plow.
Dust storms, rills and gullies, soil crusting, runoff, ponding — these are above-ground signs of poor soil health. And below ground: weak soil aggregation, compaction, impaired biological life, restricted water infiltration, stagnant smell, gray color. The prime culprit? Tillage.
Successful strip-till, like any new practice, takes experience, say three Minnesota farmers who have sustained crop yields in high-residue environments. “It can be a big learning curve, but it will be worth it,” says Dustin Frieler, a strip-tiller from Greenwald, Minn.
Old stream channels are helping to clean up farm drainage water in north central Iowa. Restored oxbows in the Boone River Watershed reduced nitrate concentrations in tile water by about 50%, according to water monitoring data gathered by the Iowa Soybean Association.
Farm improvements grew out of a voluntary environmental self-assessment, which helped Nathan Collins and his brother Sean judge the effects of their farming practices on water and soil quality. The self-assessment, called Green Star Farms Initiative, is a free, Web-based tool that asks farmers to rate their stewardship practices for crops, livestock and farmstead management.