SHP’s Wheat Week – held September 8-10 – consisted of three consecutive days of virtual events exploring wheat’s role in soil health.
Day 1: The Wheat Industry’s Perspective on Soil Health
In this panel discussion, SHP Senior Director John Mesko spoke with representatives from across the wheat industry about why and how their organizations are investing in soil health initiatives.
Jay Watson of General Mills shared the food company’s goals for sustainability and how they are aligning with farmers to improve soil health through education, coaching, creating community and working to determine sustainability measurements.
Keira Franz of the National Wheat Foundation (NWF) explained how wheat profitability is tied to areas where water is a constrained resource and how this creates a need for growers to utilize natural resources in an efficient manner. The NWF involvement in creating wheat specific trials with SHP stemmed from their National Wheat Action Plan
Justin Gilpin, CEO of Kansas Wheat, discussed wheat’s benefit to soil through wheat straw, yield gains in row crops and weed control. He also touched on their involvement in the Rainfed Agriculture Innovation Network (RAIN).
And Charlie Vogel, Executive Director at the Minnesota Wheat Growers Association, talked about Minnesota’s unique wheat growing environment and how that brings challenges and opportunity for growers.
Day 2: SHP Kansas Field Day
Featuring SHP farmers Justin Knopf and Mike Jordan
Day two of Wheat Week focused on Kansas growers. Knopf Farms showed how their SHP wheat trial will focus on building soil health qualities, like biological activity and nutrient cycling, to “jump start” the ground (which they just recently began farming) and change its productivity and sustainability. They also took attendees to a field where they incorporated a multi-species cover crop mix this year and are utilizing grazing by partnering with his neighbor’s cattle herd.
Kansas SHP farmer, Mike Jordan, explained his interest in cover crops and his historically limited success with them. He’s working to figure out if and how cover crops work over a five year period in semi-arid conditions.
Central Kansas District Crop Production Agent, Jay Wisbey, talked to growers on the challenges of the 2020 wheat growing season along with what they should consider for the 2021 season.
SHP Kansas Field Manager Keith Byerly then demonstrated an aggregate stability test, along with a soil biological test that growers can do on their own farm.
Day 3: SHP Minnesota Field Day
Featuring SHP farmers Glenn Hjelle and Trinity Creek Ranch
The last day of Wheat Week focused on Minnesota. SHP farmer Glen Hjelle provided an overview of his wheat trial and took attendees on a tour of the equipment he utilizes and how it has changed to meet his soil health goals.
Missy Geiszler, Vice President of Research at Minnesota Wheat, shared current trends for wheat growing conditions along with challenges growers face in that region.
Trinity Creek Ranch took attendees inside how they partner their soil health goals from their grain operation with their livestock. They gave background on their wheat trial, along with their journey to interseeding. Attendees got to go behind-the-scenes in a sunflower field to get an honest look at the progress they are making in adding diversity and keeping the ground covered with a flowering plant throughout the entire year. And, finally, Trinity Creek took the group on a tour of their machinery building to see how they custom-built an interseeder to meet their needs.
SHP Field Manager Anna Teeter compared the aggregate stability between a long term no-till field and Trinity Creek Ranch’s SHP field trial site, which they recently acquired and where they are working to improve its soil health.
The week finished off with an SHP growers’ panel, where farmers answered questions from attendees.