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Theo Bartman of Rock Valley, Iowa had been utilizing cover crops for two years before deciding it was time to take a deeper plunge. After some research he found the Soil Health Partnership (SHP) and learned about the trials being conducted with cover crops and no-till practices. Not long after, Theo enrolled in the program.

“After some of my research I realized that cover crops opened a book of possibilities in preventing erosion and weed suppression. Those are some of the main issues we face in our area,” said Theo.

During the last five years, Theo has started to implement cover crops and no-till in more of their fields, mostly using cereal rye. After a wet spring, the benefits of cover crops have left even more of an impact.

“My dad first used cover crops after we harvested silage in the fall of 2012. The next spring we had some big thunderstorms, and the cover crops held the soil together. We had very little signs of erosion, where in some of our other fields without cover crops we had some pretty major issues,” said Theo.

Additionally, the weed suppression has limited the amount of herbicide applied to their fields. The soil structure has also made getting crops planted during the wet spring a lot easier.

“It seems we’ve had three once in a lifetime storms in the last five years, which makes it all the more important to save the soil and prevent it from ending up in the rivers because once you lose it, it’s hard to get back,” said Theo.

Being a member of SHP since the beginning, Theo has seen the program grow and become something that has really added to his operation. “Networking with other farmers and learning about what works for them while receiving data from your fields are by far the best rewards of being an SHP farmer,” said Theo.


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 16 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!