Indiana farmers from Kokomo were one of five winners of the Soil Health Partnership Seeds of Change recently at Commodity Classic. Awards are given to Soil Health Partnership participants for going above and beyond in promoting soil health.
Daryl and Jason Maple with Maple Farms were given the Data Dominator award. Jason Maple explains the award is for, “getting the data to them in a timely manner and in a way that they can use it efficiently.”
This is the third year the Maples have partnered with SHP, a National Corn Growers Association program that collects on-farm data to evaluate the impacts of soil health practices on soil, environment, and profitability.
Maple explained why they got involved.
“The big thing we were interested in was strip tillage and also cover crops. We didn’t just want to jump into it and go full bore on it,” he said. “We wanted to see how things worked for us and not just spend a lot of money up front. With the Soil Health Partnership, we were starting out with a 70-acre field and we started doing strip tiles of conventional tillage and then strip tillage with cover crops. Following our corn crop, we’ll do no till with cover crops and then conventional tillage.”
Maple told HAT they’ll keep working on cover crops to try and realize benefits, but they haven’t yet had a good year to get them in. But, the benefits to strip tillage are showing themselves.
“This winter has been a really good test,” he said. “We were out hauling some rocks on some fields and we didn’t see any blowouts from where water has run down, and as wet as we have been, we’ve seen some places in the conventional tillage where we’ve had a lot of washes and gullies from water. That was one of the main things we were really trying to get away from with conventional tillage. We’ve seen a lot more of this and we wanted to be able to hold the soil better. With the strip tillage we’re still going 8-9 inches deep with our knife, but we’re only tilling 10 inches out of that 30-inch row, so basically a third of it.”
He said the impact on yield might be flat in some cases, but most of the time they see a net positive.
“The Soil Health Partnership’s farmers are at the core of our work,” said John Mesko, SHP senior director. “Without their commitment and support, the work of SHP does not exist. I feel honored to partner with this strong group of farmers and recognize five farmers that go above and beyond in their work with SHP. These five individuals exemplify the very best of our dedicated partners, and we thank them for their great work.”
The five award recipients are:
Super Sprout: Trinity Creek Ranch
Trinity Creek Ranch in Red Lake Falls, Minnesota received the Super Sprout award for their continuous experiments with management practices to improve soil health, despite the challenges of a shorter growing season and extremely cold winters. The farm is owned and operated by Mikayla Tabert and David Miller, a father-daughter duo that can’t wait to use their data to encourage others to consider implementing a cover crop program on their own farms.
Champion Communicator: Mark Heckman with Heckman Farms
Mark Heckman of Heckman Farms received the Champion Communicator award for his work helping other farmers understand his farm’s soil health journey. Mark hosted a field day in summer 2019 to give other farmers a firsthand glimpse of the benefits and challenges of some key management changes that have improved his farm’s soil health. Mark and his brothers and parents have also opened their West Liberty, Iowa farm to a cover crop demonstration plot, cover crop seeding equipment, a hog finishing barn, and a constructed wetland, allowing for maximum learning opportunities.
Data Dominator: Daryl and Jason Maple with Maple Farms
Receiving the Data Dominator award is Daryl and Jason Maple of Maple Farms in Kokomo, Indiana. Daryl and Jason promote optimum soil health from timely sharing of data with many precision ag programs. They are confident that their data will tell the story of what changes are taking place in their field and they genuinely enjoy the learning opportunities of their Soil Health Partnership trial. The data from their trials offer their farm and others the best opportunities to learn what management changes will work best to improve soil health.
Exceptional Educator: Doug Palen with Palen Family Farms
The Exceptional Educator award goes to Doug Palen of Palen Family Farms. Doug and his family enjoy talking about their soil health management experiences, and they jump into many experiences with both feet, giving them even more to teach about. Palen Family Farms of Glen Elder, Kansas is involved with research via a Sustainable Agriculture Research Education (SARE) grant, field demonstration days featuring no-till companion cropping, research on nutrient management, and projects with Kansas State. Doug takes an active role in his community and in the ag community as a whole, so his voice is a respected one in the area of soil health.
Ace Agronomist: Darin Kennelly with Precise Crop
A knowledgeable agronomist in his own right, Darin Kennelly received the Ace Agronomist award for his leadership with his test plots. He works diligently to ensure soil tests are pulled correctly, is actively engaged in all soil testing, and is well respected with his farmer. Darin asks thought provoking questions and engages with SHP to ensure his test plots are done with great integrity. Darin is an independent ag consultant based in central Illinois.
Source: Soil Health Partnership