Don ElsberndPostville, IA

IA_champ_Don_Elsbernd NACDSoilHealthChampionLogoPostville, Iowa
Allamakee County Soil and Water Conservation District

I have been farming for 33 years. My wife, Trish, and I have three grown children, 2 daughters and a son. Our son is gradually working his way into the operation. We are affiliated with the Allamakee County SWCD. We farm 1150 acres of primarily corn and soybeans and a small amount of hay.

Soil Health Practices

We are long time no-till/strip-tillers and are currently working to incorporate cover crops into the operation. We have used many conservation practices over the years, including conservation buffers, contour farming, grassed waterways and, recently, variable rate technology. I have always considered myself a conservationist, and we are always looking for ways to improve on what we are doing.

For the past three to four years, we have been working to incorporate cover crops into our operation. We have struggled to get stands established, but we are finding practices that seem to work in our area. We have found that trying to get a cover crop established in a good corn canopy is extremely difficult, so we are moving to planting rye right after harvest of soybeans and early harvested corn, and this seems to work quite well. For later harvested corn, we are looking at seeding ryegrass at the V-4 to V-6 stage, however this is still in the experimental stage.

Challenges

In our region of the country, we have a relatively short growing season, and trying to establish cover crops after harvest creates some challenges. We have found good success in seeding prior to October 20 if we put the seed in the ground with a planter or no-till drill. We may not get tremendous growth in the fall, but it is ready to go first thing in the spring. We are hoping the V-4 to V-6 seeding will work for acres harvested later in the season.

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