Ed Ulch

Solon, IA

You might say Ed Ulch was forced into no-till farming because he simply didn’t have enough time to do it any other way. When he started farming at Solon, IA, he’d been working as a wholesale fertilizer salesman and was starting his own fertilizer business.

Today, he farms with his son Brian, and together they have 2,330 acres including custom work and a few head of cattle. About 800 acres are in no-till corn and 650 acres are no-till beans. Some of the land has been in no-till for 32 years. He also has 40 acres of rye as a cover crop.

Terracing is a big part of his conservation efforts. He’s constructed 31 terraces and plans to build more. “They work well for us but require some maintenance to work properly,” he says. “Some are farmed and others are grass-covered. All of our rolling ground is contour farmed.”

Ulch embraces integrated pest management (IPM) and uses GPS guidance. He automatically changes application rates on his sprayer depending on weed pressure. It saves him money, too. However, 80% of his crop chemicals are custom applied, avoiding potential spills.

The Ulches soil sample every two years and fertilize using modified variable-rate application. The bulk of nitrogen (N) is sidedressed when corn reaches about 10 in. tall. “We also add ammonium thio-sulfate as an N stabilizer and sulfur source.”

Since Ulch lives near a stream that drains into Lake Macbride, two miles from his home, he’s extra cautious about runoff and water quality. He chemically and biologically tests the stream to monitor runoff.

To alleviate stream-bank erosion, he’s graded most banks to a 2:1 slope, packed and then densely planted Carolina poplar trees in combination with grass seeding. It’s a new approach developed by the University of Iowa that’s been successful. However, there’s been no government assistance since it’s not fully proven yet. He also has 60-250-ft.-wide filter strips of native grasses and wildflowers bordering all streams on the operation.

When it comes to wildlife, you’ll find a haven at the Ulches. “In the early 1980s we started planting 500 trees for wildlife habitat every spring for five years,” he says. “We’ve reconstructed a pond on my farm and stocked it with fish. And we’ve built another large pond on my son’s farm.”

Every year Ulch has several food plots in areas where there is cover and access to water. “We see deer in our yard nearly every day. We also have fox, coyote, raccoon, skunk, hawks, owls, occasionally a mink or an otter and often bald eagles.”

Besides all the ways he’s committed to conservation on the farm, you’ll also see him driving a hybrid Toyota Prius – his third one.