Name: Brian D. Martin
Location: Centralia, Missouri
Farm name: Martin Row Crops
Growers: Brian D. Martin and Nathan K. Martin
Brian’s farm is primarily no-till corn and soybeans in a 50/50 rotation. He also plants small grains and has annual forage production. In addition, he has a dedicated 80 acre Soil Health Partnership field, 20 acres of which are in the study.
Martin Row Crops is a fifth-generation family farm located in central Missouri. The farm began with diversified crops and livestock but is now focused on row crops and a cow-calf operation. Brian began his portion, which is now 35 percent of the operation, in 2003 while still in high school. Since then, he has been working to expand crop acres while also providing an independent crop consulting service for other growers.
Initially, the farm started cover crops following corn silage as a way to slow and prevent soil erosion. This also provided an additional feed source for the cattle operation. Brian has experimented with a wide range of species, including radishes, turnips, rye, wheat, barley, crimson clover, hairy vetch and even sunn hemp. The 2015 growing season was substantially affected by excessive rainfall at the wrong time during planting, resulting in “prevented planting” (a crop that cannot be successfully planted during the needed timeline). Because of those weather conditions, Brian used some cover crops that were less traditional to his area.
Brian’s portion of the farm is continuous no-till and some has been continuous no-till from the start. Other acres of the farm are both no-till and reduced tillage, primarily based upon year-to-year cash flow, weed pressure and weather concerns.
“For me, it’s simple. These tillage practices reduce fuel use, labor and machinery costs while also reducing erosion and, hopefully, improving soil structure and organic matter over time,” Brian said.
Martin has set up nutrient management on 2.5 acre grids and variably applies based upon fertility needs from soil testing and crop removal. Nitrogen management in corn and small grains is “split applied.” By split applying nutrients like nitrogen at different times in the year, it’s only in place when the crop needs it and can use it. The crops take them up rapidly. Split applied nutrients are efficient and cost effective, and also protect the environment by keeping them in place and avoiding unwanted losses into water sources.
Why did you join the Soil Health Partnership?
“I joined the Soil Health Partnership in 2017 because of my interest and passion for soil conservation and so that we can show that these management practices have a long-term economic benefit to our industry and future generations,” Brian said.
As much as anything, Brian has benefitted by learning from other growers also in the partnership, best practices and sharing of ideas. He says that some of these practices have improved water infiltration rates and soil porosity on his farm. However, many of the metrics measuring improvement can take many years to change. So, it’s a long-term process.
“Ultimately, I believe it is very important that we share what we’re doing with end-users and consumers as often as possible,” Brian said, “and that we are ever striving to become more efficient and environmentally conservative, as well as sustainable.”