Dan DiazLena, IL

IL_Diaz_SH_Champion NACDSoilHealthChampionLogoLena, Illinois
Stephenson County Soil and Water Conservation District 

I’m married with four children, ages 20 to 37, and four grandchildren. The Stephenson County Illinois Soil and Water Conservation District assists me in my conservation goals. I have numerous conservation practices on my corn and soybean rotation.

Soil Health Practices

The farm has been complete no till since 2005. I also have Conservation Reserve Program practices that include contour buffer strips, grassed waterways, riparian buffers and filter strips. I have participated in the Conservation Stewardship Program for the past two years, incorporating cover crops, deep-rooted cover crops and forestry management practices. I have always been interested in conservation, and some of the practices were put in place to resolve preexisting erosion problems, while others were added to benefit water quality and wildlife enhancement.

Cover crops have been an excellent addition to my soil health improvements. My previous practices have controlled/stopped erosion on my highly erodible land acreage, and the cover crops have greatly improved the soil structure and have begun to improve my yields. The process has been a learning curve in the use of the correct cover crops so as to accentuate the following cash crop.

Challenges

Some of the challenges have included improving establishment and also controlling/managing cover crops in the rotation. Weather is a challenge in both establishment and termination of cover crops. We have transitioned to more aerial application to get a better window for establishment and a longer growth season. Termination has also been challenging, especially during spring 2015, when wet, cold conditions impacted timely spraying. I think commodity prices will also affect cover crop usage. Corn at $3.50 per bushel vs. $7 leaves much less disposable income to fund cover crops.

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