Farmers who improve the health of their soil will improve productivity as well as the quality of water on and off their farm, according to keynote and concluding speakers at "Building Farmer Wealth with Soil Health," an educational program at this year's Iowa Power Farming Show in Des Moines February 3 to 5. Several Iowa farmers will be speaking on the program, along with a farmer from Minnesota and one from Indiana.
These special soil health and crop production seminars are being held in addition to sessions on other topics. Plus, as usual, the show will feature the latest in farm equipment and crop production technology as a large number of commercial exhibitors participate in this huge indoor show at the Iowa Events Center.
Speakers to discuss how "soil health builds wealth" for farms
"Contrary to misconceptions, both installing drainage tile and injecting hog manure in fields play key roles in increasing biological life in the soil, and that biological activity enhances water quality," says Minnesota farmer David Legvold, who strip-tills his corn. Legvold will share how he brought dead soil back to life after it had been moldboard plowed for more than 30 years.
"The most important thing every farmer can do is to start trying soil health techniques on their land and then share that knowledge with other farmers," says Legvold. "And the sooner the better. It's important for everyone — including the public — to realize that it takes time for changes to occur in the soil and with water quality."
Legvold and two biology students from St. Olaf College in Minnesota who've monitored soil health will be keynote speakers for "Building Farmer Wealth with Soil Health" each of the three days from 10 a.m. to 11 a.m. All program sessions are held on level one of Hy-Vee Hall, in rooms 107 and 108 by the Hall of Pride in the Iowa Events Center.
Also, learn how healthy soil also improves water quality
Legvold will be followed later in the day by Indiana farmer Mike Starkey, who farms land that drains into a reservoir that provides drinking water for Indianapolis. Starkey, the concluding speaker on Tuesday and Wednesday at 3 p.m., will also be speaking about how healthy soil improves water quality during a 9:15 to 9:45 a.m. "mini session" on Tuesday and Wednesday.
"A university scientist has documented that the water entering and then leaving a bioswale on Starkey Farms is cleaner than when it arrives onto our land," says Starkey, who no-tills his corn and soybeans and uses cover crops, along with a bioswale and other resource improvement practices. He says the combination of no-tilling and cover crops has virtually eliminated the ponding that used to happen after heavy rains.
Using no-till and cover crops improves air and water movement
"We are getting tremendous air and water movement through the soil in our fields and I attribute that to no-tilling and cover crops," says Starkey, a recipient of a Conservation Legacy Award from the American Soybean Association.
Starkey credits cover crops and no-till for improving water retention, which helped during the searing drought of 2012. And nitrogen scavenged by his annual ryegrass cover crop is released for the following year's corn crop, he says.
Iowa farmers Tim Recker of Arlington, John Weber of Dysart, and Frank Moore of Osage will explain why and how to build healthy soils—those with high organic matter, high microbial activity, stable structure, high water infiltration rates and other characteristics that produce higher yields long term. Topics include bringing dead soils back to life; using the Haney soil test to measure life in the soil; practical tools to use in building soil health; sophisticated soil sampling that leads to better fertilizer decisions; and reasons for inter-seeding cover crops into standing corn and soybeans.
Check Iowa Power Farming Show website for program schedule
Admittance to "Building Farmer Wealth with Soil Health" is free with paid admission to the 2015 Iowa Power Farming Show. To pre-register for the Iowa Power Farming Show and get a discount on admission, check its website.
"Building Farmer Wealth with Soil Health" is made possible through the support of a number of sponsors and partners. Major sponsors are: Saddle Butte Ag, Kimberley Ag Consulting, Iowa Department of Agriculture & Land Stewardship, KB Seed Solutions, Iowa Farm Bureau, and AutoProbe Technologies. Supporting sponsors/partners are St. Olaf College, Soil Investigative Services, Oregon Ryegrass Growers Seed Commission, Iowa Natural Resources Conservation Service and the Iowa Soybean Association.