Digging In

Dedication, Comparison, and Cover Crops

Dedication, Comparison, and Cover Crops

By Emily Keiser on Tuesday, 06 August, 2019

Greg Whitmore of Shelby, Nebraska, has utilized cover crops on his farm for more than 18 years, but he was continuously looking for more ways to dive deeper into soil health and learn more about how to improve organic matter from other farmers. Greg knew he had found the resources he was looking for when Kelly Brunkhorst, Executive Director of the Nebraska Corn Board, encouraged him to check out the Soil Health Partnership.

As one of the original partner sites of SHP, Greg joined the Soil Health Partnership in 2014. 

“When I joined SHP I had been thinking about starting cover crops on a plot that had some drainage and erosion problems and then with the guidance of the Nebraska Field Manager, I was able to implement the right cover crops for that area.” 

Greg started with cereal rye and, as his interest in cover crops has grown he has started experimenting with radishes and turnips in addition to a legume mix. Greg has also started learning more about conservation measures for the dairy industry by injecting dairy manure into established cover crops. 

Over the last five years, Greg has not seen a dramatic change in yield, but with the soil health test results, he has seen the improvement to soil health and a significant reduction in soil erosion. 

“After harvesting silage, I got really tired of seeing the dust blow across my fields in the spring. With the implementation of cover crops and adding manure, that is pretty much non-existent today.”

Greg enjoys and appreciates that SHP provides a space for him to learn, network and share information. 

“Hearing about other growers’ successes while learning from their failures has by far been the best part.” 

After raising cover crops for so long, it was hard for Greg to learn more about the benefits and analyze if the cost is really worth it. With SHP, Greg has been able to put those concerns to rest. 

The intensive soil sampling implemented by SHP has helped Greg find the information he was missing in his operation. “Normal soil sampling usually goes 10 inches down, but with the more intensive SHP soil sampling of 1-3 and 3-6 inch depths, we realized that we had an acidic top layer of soil that we weren’t seeing with other samples. Once we got that fixed we started to see things fall into line.”

Being a leader in soil health has also led to some unique opportunities within his home state of Nebraska. In 2019 the Nebraska Legislature passed LB 243 which called for the creation of a Health Soils Task Force. Greg is one of just a handful of ag producers who will be sitting on this committee, tasked with the responsibility of identifying opportunities and developing action plans to aid in the research, education, and financial incentives to improve soil health.

Early adopter farmers, like Greg, have experienced and influenced SHP’s growth and development over the last five years. Thank you, Greg for your involvement and commitment to SHP! 

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The Soil Health Partnership (SHP) is celebrating its fifth anniversary as a farmer-led initiative fostering transformation in agriculture through improved soil health. SHP has grown from 17 active farms in 2014 to 220 active farms in 2019. SHP represents around 6,000 acres, spans across 15 states and partners with over 100 organizations at the federal, state and county levels. Join us as we reflect on the past five years and celebrate the opportunities ahead!