Local organic farmer reduces erosion and improves soil health through interseeding

Wally Mahr, an organic farmer near Dorchester, fabricated the seeder, pictured above and below, for the interseeding of crops to prevent erosion and improve soil health. Submitted photos.

Submitted by Eric Novey, Project Coordinator, SWCD

A local organic farmer is reducing erosion and improving soil health on cropland he farms near Dorchester. He tried interseeding into growing corn for the first time this year.

Wally Mahr said he hopes to reduce erosion, suppress weeds, and improve his soil health by interseeding. Mahr got the idea to try interseeding into growing corn from attending meetings with a group of local organic farmers. With the help of some online research he fabricated his own seeder.

It was constructed from a used Lilliston rotary cultivator he purchased in western Minnesota for $800. It required about $3,000 in maintenance to update its worn bearings. Then he located a used Gandy air seeder box for $3,500. After adding a drive wheel, it was ready for use.

“It works really slick,” said Mahr. “I can adjust the angle of the rotary hoes to make them more or less aggressive. “I hate erosion and want to help build my soil health.” “As a farmer It’s hard to spend money on something that won’t pay you back right away, but I think it was the right thing to do.”

In June of this year, Mahr interseeded rye grass, purple top turnip, and red clover into V5 leaf stage corn. He is currently using 38-inch row spacing but wants to try some 60-inch rows next. Mahr also wants to incorporate cattle into the system in the future.

Adding cover crops to your crop rotation greatly increases soil microbe populations. The cover crop gives microbes sugars and in return the microbes provide plants with amino acids, nutrients, and water. According to the Ohio County Journal, “there are more soil microbes in a teaspoon of soil than there are people on earth”. “There are 1000-2000 times more microbes near active living roots.” “Healthy soil microbe populations provide nutrient dense food, higher crop yields, and recycle soluble soil nutrients.”

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