What are you doing to practice and promote soil and water quality?
As an agronomist in a local cooperative, I have the opportunity to work with farmers in my geography to help them be more profitable and sustainable for the long-term success of their farming operation. To aid in water quality nitrate concerns and give the farmer a better ROI, I have been a strong promoter of nitrogen stabilizers on all forms of N, write variable rate nitrogen prescriptions to help farmers optimize their nitrogen applications and avoid excessive use of nitrogen, and promote in season nutrient applications that are better timed for the crops’ needs. I am in favor of utilizing a lot more rye behind corn to immobilize any residual nitrogen, protect against soil erosion, suppress weeds, and improve soil structure for all of the benefits that soil structure provides. Where possible, I also promote planting soybeans green into standing rye and terminating the rye after crop emergence for improved weed control, potential herbicide savings, and cover crop growth, without generally affecting soybean yield.
What is being done in your county to support soil and water quality?
In addition to growers in SW Iowa doing a lot of long-term no-till, variable rate fertilizer applications, and extensive terracing, NRCS has awarded a significant amount of cost share for cover crops to the Walnut Creek watershed in my area, a priority watershed targeted for improved water quality. Farmers are utilizing mostly rye cover crops on more acres of crop ground in an effort to improve soil resistance to erosion and to improve soil/water quality for future use.
What could be done with more public funding for soil and water quality?
I believe the best fit for my area is demonstrating how soybeans planted green into a solid stand of rye can be an effective weed suppression strategy (especially of waterhemp), and reduce some of our dependence on an ever-shrinking pool of effective herbicide sites of action. Herbicide programs continue to increase in cost, and I believe the highest and quickest return to cost-share funds is in incentivizing rye following corn, rotating to soybeans. Even cover cropping rye every other year would be a significant improvement in adoption over where we are today. I also believe that edge of field grass buffer strips along streams and other bodies of water are another high impact practice that can make a lot of positive water quality impacts with a small investment that don’t require altering management strategies across every acre.