Ag management day a success

On August 17, 70 people participated in a manure management and strip tillage field day near Milaca. The event was hosted by the Mille Lacs Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD) and USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). Topics ranged from honing in on manure as a resource, to soil health and strip tillage.

Attendees were pleased with the information provided at the field day.  Paul Ash, a Mille Lacs County farmer, said of the manure spreader calibration demonstration, “that was an easy way to calibrate a manure spreader, I can do that.” Manure rate planning is a basic foundation to knowing the amount of nutrients you are applying to your field, as well as a manure sample test. Jose Hernandez, with the University of Minnesota Extension Service, discussed the availabilities of nitrogen inhibitor products available for manure. Grant Pearson, NRCS Nutrient Management Specialist, discussed that manure rate planning will give your crops the nutrients they need and help protect water quality at the same time.

Samantha Adams, with the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA), talked about manure application setbacks from surface waters and tile inlets. She also discussed the importance of reporting a manure spill. “Whether large or small, you are better off reporting a spill than being reported and fined.”

A soil health demonstration was also popular with the group. Mike Walczynski, Area Resource Soil Scientist with NRCS, demonstrated soil infiltration rates. Two soil samples of the same soil type were used to demonstrate water infiltration, one from a conventionally tilled crop field and the other from a field that has been cropped using no-till techniques for 40 years. The soil sample from the no-till field had water movement flowing faster due to open pore space and better soil structure, signs of a healthier soil profile.

Kevin Kuhn, Environmental Tillage Consultant and Product Support Manager for Environmental Tillage Systems, said during his presentation on Zone Tillage that “soil absorption test is what we strive for, the better soil structure, the higher organic matter, the more biological activity you have, the better crops you are going to grow.” Will Bomier, Area Resource Conservationist with NRCS quoted Gab Brown, a no-till farmer in North Dakota who stated “America does not have a soil erosion problem; we have a soil absorption problem.” “Keeping our crop fields covered year round with live plant materials is a good start to activating the soil biology and restoring soil health” said Carissa Spencer, NRCS State Agronomist. The field demonstration of the Soil Warrior from Environmental Tillage Systems was one of the more popular stops of the day. They demonstrated that a large quantity of water can be put into the ground by the strip tillage equipment and how it releases some of the compaction issues in crop fields. Ben Puck from Puck Enterprises discussed how the Honey Warrior is a great tool to get liquid manure in the ground where the crops can utilize it. Dan Martens, Benton County University of Minnesota Extension, brought two producers, Roy Schneider and Mike Gans, who talked about their experiences with strip tillage. They discussed weed control, nutrient application, manure application and why they do “strip tillage.” Mike said, “strip tillage is the main tool I use to alleviate soil compaction issues on my farm, which improves the root systems and yields of the corn and soybeans.” Roy stated, “time, reducing input cost, increasing profitability and maintaining yields were the reasons why I switched to strip tillage.” Roy also mentioned that he did not feel he was losing much nutrient content from manure being placed onto his fields because the crop residues tie up most of the nitrogen from the manure that was still on the surface for the following year’s crop.

The last take-home message of the event was from Rick Martens from Marten’s Manurigation. Rick talked about overall safety on the farm headquarters, around manure lagoons and carbon monoxide concerns. He also said “fatigue can be dangerous. Taking a 10-minute nap at the end of the field is better than pushing too fast and hard too long.” He also encouraged producers to be “visible on the roads and have mirrors on the equipment that allow you to see around what you are pulling.”

For more information about topics discussed at this field day, please contact Shannon Carpenter, NRCS District Conservationist, Mille Lacs County, at 320-983-2154 or Shannon.carpenter@mn.usda.gov.

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