Jefferson County farmers will have the chance to learn more about no-till farming and cover crops.
Tom Novak, a crop consultant with Total Crop Management LLC in Sullivan, will speak Wednesday at the “Shop Talk” meeting of the Jefferson County Soil Builders. The Builders are one of two farmer-led groups in Jefferson County — the other is the Rock River Regenerative Grazers — focused on building on no-till farming, cover crops and other forms of progressive agriculture.
No-till farming is the practice of planting without tilling fields in the spring and fall. The practice requires fewer resources — diesel fuel and tillage equipment — than so-called conventional tillage.
Cover crops — like winter rye grass — are crops sown in between the cash crops, usually soybeans or corn, which are used to retain water and soil on fields, and maintain living roots in the soil.
Used together, the practices can also potentially reduce other inputs, like expensive nitrogen-based fertilizers.
The Soil Builders meetings typically consist of those, like Jefferson County grower Dean Weichmann, who have already been involved in the process for decades.
The group hopes to convert more people to no-till from conventional farming, Weichmann said. The State of Wisconsin is offering a nitrogen-optimization pilot program this year, and Weichmann said he’s conducting on-field research to determine best practices.
“A lot of the watershed groups are probably going to apply for funds,” he said. “Some of us would like to see the research done, too.”
For example, Wiechmann has a three-field 27-plot test going on his son’s farm.
Although no-till farming and cover crops offer plenty of advantages, they also pose unique challenges, Novak said.
As a crop consultant, many of his growers have already implemented no-till farming, Novak said. The challenge is attracting growers currently involved in conventional farming to come to meetings and consider the difference.
He plans to speak primarily about the economics of no-till, particularly the reduction in diesel fuel and equipment costs. However, different weeds can show up when growers first make the transition, even if the means to contain them are the same, Novak said.
“This actually makes sense economically,” he said. “Look what it’s doing for the environment. It’s a completely different mindset versus just going out and saying ‘We’re going to rip in the fall and come through with a soil finisher in the spring.’”
Post a comment as
Watch this discussion.
Welcome to the discussion.
Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
PLEASE TURN OFF YOUR CAPS LOCK.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.