Prices and yield: two of a farmer’s biggest concerns in any given year. For SHP farmer Steve Berger, soil conservation is one of his concerns—and he firmly believes it benefits his bottom line.
Steve and his family raise corn, soybeans, and pigs in southeast Iowa. Steve’s father had a began implementing no-till on the land in the 1970s and it was a natural progression for Steve to begin putting in cereal rye.
“No-till was certainly helping with erosion remediation but it wasn’t adding organic matter like cover crops do,” says Steve. “I know that if we build organic matter, we boost our corn yields further. Soybeans are already increasing because of cover crops and no-till.”
Steve acknowledges change doesn’t come easily. But he points to the Soil Health Partnership and peer groups as a good way to learn and receive support to make the transition from conventional tillage to reduced tillage and cover crops.
“You don’t just go from an intensive tillage operation to no-till without some challenges,” he said. “That’s why a lot of farmers just don’t adopt. These peer groups from the partnership are a good way to help work through those challenges.”
Steve adds farmers still need to make a living, which is why data gathered by SHP could be helpful. As an early adopter, he has seen strong improvements in his soil – and his yields, which track above-average – from years of cover crops.
“I think it’s possible to marry the two ideas of soil conservation and crop production, and the Soil Health Partnership is the perfect group to do this,” he said.