Charles CunninghamAtwater, MN

P8201217 NACDSoilHealthChampionLogoKandiyohi County, Minnesota
Kandiyohi Soil and Water Conservation District

Brothers Charles and John Cunningham operate a corn-soybean farm on 3,000 acres. They are third-generation farmers, having grown up on a dairy farm. They are active with the Kandiyohi Soil and Water Conservation District, most recently participating in a Soil Health Day at the local community college and technical school.

Soil Health Practices

The cows are gone, and the Cunninghams no longer “plow it black.” They are dedicated to no-till farming.  A blizzard in 1991 was a turning point in the farming operation. Following an early snow storm in November and no fall tillage, they needed to make a farming decision for the next year’s growing season. They were tired of soil loss and depleted soil. They decided to try no-till. They note that at first, neighbors wondered what they were doing. But in time, their efforts started paying off. They eliminated soil erosion, and organic matter in the soil increased to 5 percent.

The Cunninghams use oats as a cover crop and are experimenting with brassicas. Future plans call for incorporating buffers into their soil health practices.

Challenges

Cool soil temperatures and wet soil conditions in the spring are challenging in Minnesota. But that hasn’t deterred them.

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