Cover Crops Farmer Profiles
Carmen Fernholz has been using cover crops on his Madison, MN farm for almost 30 years. Most of his covers are used in conjunction with small grain management. All of his small grains which include wheat, oats, barley, flax and dried field peas are all underseeded with either a red clover or an alfalfa. These underseedings are then used as covers late into the fall or as cash forage crops for ensuing years. Alfalfa as a three year perennial and cash crop also is a big part of his crop rotation system.
Gabe Brown, along with his wife, Shelly, and son, Paul, own and operate a diversified 5,400-acre farm and ranch near Bismarck, N.D. The Browns holistically integrate their grazing and no-till cropping system, which includes a wide variety of cash crops along with multi-species cover crops and all-natural, grass-fed beef, poultry and sheep.
CLC Practices: Cover Crops, Perennial Forage
Jim O’Hara aerial seeded 60 acres of rye and radish cover crops in September. His 25-head Shenandoah, Iowa cow heard grazed on the cover crops during the winter. Iowa Soybean Association member.
Jerry and Nancy Ackermann Farm ~1050 acres of corn, soybeans and alfalfa in Lakefield, MN. Purple-topped turnips, tillage radish and cereal rye cover crops on standing corn and soybeans. Farm is being studied by Andy Nesseth, of Extended Ag Service in Lakefield.
Tim Smith, an Eagle Grove, IA farmer, was honored by the National Corn Growers Association as the inaugural recipient of its Good Steward Recognition Program.
Gary Sommers grows corn, soybeans, and winter wheat on 1,475 of his 1,500 acres in Clinton, Wisconsin. The remaining 25 acres are enrolled in CRP. Gary uses cover crops on his steeper fields.
Ralph Upton Jr. – Cover crops: Ralph’s farm is 1,800 acres of no-till corn, soybeans, and wheat located in Hamilton County, Illinois. Ralph has implemented cover crops for several reasons. His primary goal was improving crop access to sub-soil moisture and building fertility, he also wanted to protect his soil from erosion, provide nitrogen for subsequent crops, and manage weeds.
Dan DeSutter grows continuous, no-till corn on his 4,300 acres near Attica, IN. In the 10 years he has been growing cereal rye, oilseed radish, and crimson clover as cover crops, his organic matter has increased 2%.
Dave Brandt - When soybean farmer Dave Brandt started using cover crops in 1978, his soil was yellowish clay. Today his soil is black and organic matter has gone from 0.5% to 5.5%. He uses ryegrass and hairy vetch for cover crops on his 900 acres in Carroll, OH.
Steve Berger became a convert when he noticed a yield boost on ground where there used to be a fencerow. The corn yield has increased on his 2,200 acre farm near Wellman, Iowa since he started using cereal rye as a cover crop.
Andy Hart and his family raise corn, soybeans, hay, sweet corn, lima beans and peas. They have been involved with conservation work on their farm for several years including cover cropping, CRP, and installation of terraces and grass waterways. They use minimum till, no-till, and strip-till farming practices. Their farm is located in Elgin, MN.
Danny & Kevin Harms farm about 3,250 acres in Livingston, McLean and Ford counties, Illinois. They had a dairy operation until 2007 and now focus on corn and soybeans. “We wanted something to pull nutrients up from deep down and bring them closer to the surface,” said Danny. With its thick, fibrous roots, annual ryegrass does that and more, helping with compaction, water infiltration and nitrogen sequestration.
Torray Wilson and family farm about 640 acres organically near Paullina, IA. He grows organic corn (maize), soybeans and oats and these are sold off the farm for cash. He also has a burgeoning sheep, cattle and pig enterprise.
CLC Practices: Cover Crops, Perennial Forage
JenEhr Family Farm – Paul Ehrhardt and Kay Jensen CSA farm on 50 of their 110 acres. They rotate cover crops on sloping land. Turkeys and chickens are pastured on the cover crop portions. On his bottomland, Paul rotates annual grass cover crops – winter wheat, rye, oats and barey – with his vegetables. These small grains add carbon and biomass to the soil and slow erosion. He has experimented with Sudangrass and soybeans with mixed success. He is interested in trying field peas, likely planting them with barley and triticale.
Andreas Farms – Dan Andreas’ dairy farm is a milking operation with more than 1,500 dairy cows. Nearly 4,000 acres are used to grow forage for the cows. Dan uses cover crops on the active fields to improve soil health and to prevent soil erosion and nutrient runoff.
Dana Foster – Cover Crops + Grazing: Dana is a sheep and cattle farmer in Springdale, IA who planted cover crops on the fallow area of the garden. Dana got 3 grazes off of the cover crops the first year.
Daniel Steidinger read about cover crops and decided to give them a try on his Illinois farm. He planted radishes to increase water infiltration where water used to run across the field. The deep roots of the radish aerated the area enough to pull water further down into the soil profile. Daniel said “There was a 100-bushel difference in my field with cover crops, and in a drought like we had, that just speaks for itself”.