Iowa Corn discussions yield soil health insights

With conversations increasingly revolving around water quality, conservation and soil health, Iowa Corn Growers Association gave farmers the opportunity to learn from other farmers at a recent panel discussion. The event was held at Iowa State University and also offered via live streaming.  
Iowa Secretary of Agriculture, Bill Northey who moderated the discussion and spoke to the audience about the progress that has been made since introducing the Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy three years ago.
 “We’re very proud of what farmers across the state are doing when it comes to conservation and water quality,” said Northey. “We’ve seen a lot of interest and adoption of cover crops because of the water quality benefits, and also because farmers see the long-term value that they have on soil quality.”
Iowa corn farmers, Steve Berger, Jolene Riessen and Jerry Mohr were the three panelists who shared their experiences with conservation practices, such as no-till planting, cover crops and saturated buffer strips. Though they each have different ways of incorporating conservation practices on their farms, they all have taken steps toward improving the health of their soil and quality of the waters surrounding their farms.
“Forty years ago, we had no idea about soil health or soil quality, but I have really seen the changes over time since I started using cover crops,” stated Berger, who farms in southeast Iowa.
Riessen and Mohr also are using cover crops and have seen the benefits first hand over the past few years.
“We just had a historically wet December, and my neighbor’s terraces were filled with water while mine hadn’t even started to hold water yet,” said Mohr. “It’s not a process that’s easy to measure, but you start to see small improvements as time goes on.”
Riessen concurs. “We use a number of conservation practices such as no till, cover crops that are used as a feed source for cattle, and we’re strong proponents of terraces and buffer strips,” she said. “Stewardship is so important to me because I have two boys coming back to farm and I want them to be able to farm.”