We believe it is our responsibility to protect and enhance the quality of our environment. We focus on using best management practices for growing our crops, reducing water consumption, reusing water, and implementing sustainable practices throughout our business.
Reducing Fertilizer Use
We strictly follow a comprehensive nutrient management plan to guarantee that the right amount of fertilizer is being applied to the right soil zones at the right time. Instead of farming an entire field the same, we utilize Variable Rate Technology to separate our fields into zones based on soil type. Different soil types have a higher or lower productivity levels because of varying organic matter levels, prior crop history, high or low areas in the field, and distance to bedrock, the water table, or the subsoil. These zones in our fields are recorded in a software program. We soil sample on a 2.5 acre grid and GPS mark each sample. Soil samples, crop yield goal, prior yield data, and prior crop history help us determine the fertilizer needed for each soil zone.
The manure produced from our cows is an excellent fertilizer source. Manure contains nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, numerous micro-nutrients, and organic matter. All of these components are a food source for soil micro-organisms and increase soil health. During every manure hauling period, we take one or two manure samples to determine the level of nutrients and solids in our manure. Our manure is processed by a digester and contains less nutrients than unprocessed manure. The solids in our manure are removed by the digester and recycled as bedding. Manure is applied at the rates determined by our nutrient management plan. Utilizing our manure as a nutrient source helps us reduce the amount of commercial fertilizer applied.
Using the software program, we can create a controller file that is loaded onto the computer in
our fertilizer spreader. As we drive across the field to apply fertilizer, the amount of fertilizer being applied automatically adjusts as we cross the different zones. Appling varying rates of fertilizer- instead of a set rate across the field, helps us reduce the amount of fertilizer used.
We work with the Door County Soil and Water Department and the NRCS to evaluate our fields and determine if any water ways or buffers are needed. A buffer is a grass strip that is planted on the edge of a field to filter water that may run off of the field. Planting buffers is one way we can guarantee we are doing our part to keep our lakes and streams clean! We have installed several buffers and waterways this spring, and we will continue to evaluate our fields and install more this fall.
We utilize no-till and minimal-till cropping systems. A no-till field is one that is not worked after the crop is harvested. The plant material (corn stalks, soybean stubble, etc.) is left on the soil surface. The next year a crop is planted without working the soil. Not disturbing the soil helps reduce erosion, keep carbon in the soil, and preserve soil moisture. The plant material adds organic matter to the soil and creates a mat on the soil surface to suppress weeds which reduces the need for chemical herbicides.
A cover crop is planted after the main crop is harvested. It keeps the ground covered when it would typically be bare.
Cover crops reduce the potential for erosion in the Fall and Spring. They also filter any water that may run off the field when the snow melts in spring. We seed triticale, alfalfa, and wheat in the fall. These crops grow until it is less than 30 degrees. Then they go dormant through the winter and start growing in spring when the temperature reaches around 45 degrees. Some other cover crops we plant are rape, hairy vetch, cereal rye, forage collards, peas, oats, and crimson clover.
This fall we will be working with the NRCS to interplant cover crops into 600 acres of standing corn before it is harvested. Planting into a standing crop helps get the cover crop established before the weather gets too cold.
Protecting Our Soil
Forage collards have a large root system
that holds soil
Rape is an excellent food
source for deer and other wildlife. It also protects our soil during winter and spring.
No Till Cropping
Grass Waterways and Buffers
No-tilling corn into soybean stubble.
No-tilling soybeans into rape cover crop.
Grass waterway to prevent erosion.