JANESVILLE, Wis. — For the Hughes family, extending their crop rotation with small grains and cover crops makes sense for several reasons – not least of which is the economic benefit. Not only do these crops need fewer inputs, they can control weeds, boost nitrogen in the soil and reduce soil erosion – all of which can add up to significant cost-savings.
“Integrating small grains and cover crops is part of a sustainable approach to profitability and diversification,” says Willie Hughes who, with his parents, Randy and Judy, and several other family members, operates Hughes Farm near Janesville, Wisconsin.
The farm includes more than 5,000 acres of tillable land and a wide range of crops raised both organically and conventionally, including corn, soybeans, wheat, rye and oats, as well as a diverse mix of specialty crops.
Practical Farmers of Iowa is expanding its work to include areas of Wisconsin and Minnesota due to a Conservation Innovation Grant awarded by the Natural Resources Conservation Service in 2016. The grant funds programming to help farmers – like the Hughes family – add small grains and green-manure legume cover crops to their farming systems. These nitrogen-fixing crops reduce how much nitrogen fertilizer farmers need to buy for their corn crops.
The Hughes family will share their experience integrating small grains and cover crops into their parallel-production system at a Practical Farmers of Iowa field day they are hosting on Tuesday, July 12, from 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. near Janesville, Wisconsin (4031 South U.S. 51). The free event – “Small Grains, Modest Gains: A Pragmatic Approach” – is being held in partnership with Organic Grain Resource and Information Network (OGRAIN), and will include morning coffee and pastries and a lunch.
The lunch is a networking event for small grains buyers and sellers to connect with one another. Small grains buyers can reserve a free spot at this lunch by contacting Debra Boekholder, email@example.com or (515) 232-5661. RSVPs are also appreciated from field day attendees for meal planning. Please contact Debra by Friday, July 6.
The field day is sponsored by Ag Business Council of Rock County Inc.; Albert Lea Seed; Blue Farm; Hughes Farm; Midwest Organic and Sustainable Education Service; Organic Seed Alliance; and USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service.
This field day will explore how growing small grains as part of an extended crop rotation benefits the other cash crops in both conventional and organic cropping systems.
Randy and Willie will discuss how they integrate small grains and cover crops into both production systems; and how cover crops can serve as green manure, control weeds, reduce soil erosion and improve water quality. They will also share how they grow organic and non-GMO corn and soybeans; and how to increase yields, provide crop protection and gain a premium for these crops.
Other speakers will include Nick Baker of Rock County Extension; Dave Gundlach of the Rock County Natural Resources Conservation Service; Matt Leavitt of Midwest Organic and Sustainable Education Service; Erin Silva, with the Department of Plant Pathology at the University of Wisconsin – Madison; and Jared Zystro from the Organic Seed Alliance, who will discuss managing risk through variety selection.
Directions from I-90: Take Exit 177, head west on WI Hwy 11 and turn left (south) on U.S. 51.
Practical Farmers’ 2018 field days are supported by several sustaining and major sponsors, including: Albert Lea Seed; Applegate Natural & Organic Meats; Blue River Organic Seed; Cascadian Farms; Center for Rural Affairs; Farm Credit Services of America; Gandy Cover Crop Seeders; Grain Millers, Inc.; Green Cover Seed; Green Thumb Commodities; Iowa Agriculture Water Alliance; Iowa Beef Center; Iowa State University Department of Agronomy; Iowa Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE); ISU Extension and Outreach; La Crosse Forage and Turf Seed; MOSA Organic Certification; Natural Resources Defense Council; Organic Valley / Organic Prairie;PepsiCo; Pipeline Foods; Premier 1 Supplies; Sunrise Foods International; The DeLong Company; The Fertrell Company; The Scoular Company; Unilever; University of Iowa College of Public Health (I-CASH); USDA: Natural Resources Conservation Service; Wallace Chair for Sustainable Agriculture; and Welter Seed & Honey Co.
— Practical Farmers of Iowa