Tim Smith, Eagle Grove, Iowa, is the first NCGA Good Steward winner. He invests a lot of time sharing his experience and conservation optimism with other farmers after reducing his tile water nitrate levels through cover crops, strip-till, bioreactor and delaying nitrogen applications.
Two-thirds of Smith’s ground involves comparison strips to test various treatments. For example he tested spring-applied N to sidedress-only, but the wet spring and replanting fouled up his maturity comparisons.
He’s also dabbled with the Field to Mark Fieldprint calculator, which measures inputs (energy, water quality and volume, soil carbon, conservation, land use and greenhouse gas emissions) confidentially. He can benchmark his own progress and compare himself to similar county and national peers. “When I think about farm energy use, I think about fuel and propane, but this calculator takes you back through the value chain, and now I realize how much energy goes into nitrogen fertilizer.”