Change isn’t always an easy sell to farmers who have relied on the same methodology for years or even decades, especially if they’ve had success.
“Farmers tend to rely on the two T’s — tillage and tradition,” Minnesota strip-tiller David Legvold told me during a recent visit to his farm. “In my opinion, you need to shift away from the traditional, and from practices that are damaging the soil.”
A longtime no-tiller, Legvold began strip-tilling his corn acres about a decade ago and, soon after, took the plunge into gathering and analyzing soil health to refine his fertility program.
Legvold is quick to admit that incorporating extensive soil sampling, and using new technology such as lysimeters to measure escaped nitrogen below corn plants, wasn’t his idea.
Student researchers from a local college were responsible for opening Legvold’s eyes to the potential that new technology could provide in strip-till. Today, his farm is a virtual tourist stop for state, national and international researchers to evaluate and learn.
Legvold recently hosted a group of French farmers who toured his farm to learn more about the benefits of strip-till and promoting long-term soil health. Later this summer, a group of researchers will be stopping by to collect data for nitrogen rate study.
“This is a step in the right direction for student researchers to fine-tune their scientific chops, as well as proving the worth of local research,” Legvold says.
Increased organic matter and higher corn yields are benefits that have made Legvold a believer in soil data collection and analysis. But he says a bigger buy-in from other farmers to investigate and seek to improve their soil health through technology will be an essential part of sustaining soil health.
Of course, farmers often aren’t quite sure where to start. In his part of southeastern Minnesota, Legvold is doing his part to pass along what he’s learned and grow interest and adoption of soil data collection and analysis by other strip-tillers.
He custom strip-tills fields for several local farmers at no charge and sets them on the path to nurturing long-term soil health.
“They’ve seen what I’ve been doing and said, ‘We know you’re getting good information, we want a piece of that,’” Legvold says.
When it comes to data-driven farming, it’s simply a matter of deciding what piece best suits the appetite of the farmer — whether it’s improving soil health, cutting input costs or increasing machinery efficiency.
Finding that entry point can help advance the next generation of strip-tillers past the, “it was good enough for my dad, so it’s good enough for me,” mentality.
As Legvold says, “Find something that fits your passion and then sample it, test it and rely on the confidence that people before you have acquired to improve.”
What types of technology are you using to promote long-term soil health? Feel free to contact me at 262-782-4480 ext. 441 or at firstname.lastname@example.org to share your success stories.