Wood Soil and Water Conservation District
My wife, Barb, and I farm a little over 200 acres in our cash-grain operation. We have two married daughters. I am a supervisor and chair of the Wood Soil and Water Conservation District and a director for the Western Lake Erie Basin Partnership. This Regional Conservation Partnership Program project seeks to protect water quality in the western basin of Lake Erie. The Ohio Department of Natural Resources recognized our farm as one of five winners of the 2015 Conservation Farm Family Awards. We have worked with Wood County Extension, Ohio Farm Bureau and the Wood Soil and Water Conservation District to start and promote the “Farm 4 Clean Water” social media initiative. I am also piloting an effort to promote the use of soil health field testing equipment at the local level so it could be used for educational and data collection.
Soil Health Practices
Five years ago, we switched to a no-till system and started cover cropping. The cover crops started with a single species and have evolved into multi-species. Northwest Ohio, where we farm, is predominantly a corn-soybean rotation area. We are trying to incorporate cereal grains in the rotation also. Building soil organic matter is a major goal. Five years ago, soil organic matter was between 2 and 3 percent. Our last soil tests are showing 4.6 percent. The reason for trying to increase organic matter is a little different. It all started over an onion growing contest between friends. I had heavy clay soils and needed to do something. After seeing the results, I was on a mission to increase soil organic matter on the farm.
Some good things I have been able to observe with these practices are increased organic matter, increased earthworm activity, decreased compaction, less weed pressure by providing competition and, best, we’re starting to see mycorrizial fungi.
The biggest challenge is planting after harvest of cash crops. Rainfall events and timing are a combination that can derail the best intentions.