JANESVILLE, Wis. — Extending a crop rotation with small grains and cover crops makes sense for several reasons, not least of which is the economic benefit, says Willie Hughes, who farms near Janesville, Wis. 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 Hughes who, with his parents, Randy and Judy, and several other family members, operates Hughes Farm. The farm includes more than 5,000 acres of tillable land and a wide range of crops—some organic, some conventional—including corn, soybeans, wheat, rye and oats, as well as a diverse mix of specialty crops.
The Hughes family will share their experience integrating small grains and cover crops into their parallel-production system at a free field day Tuesday, July 12, from 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Hughes Farm, 4031 South U.S. 51. They’ll explain 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, plus how to increase yields, reduce risk, and gain a premium for these crops.
This event, “Small Grains, Modest Gains: A Pragmatic Approach,” is a joint effort of Practical Farmers of Iowa and the Organic Grain Resource and Information Network (OGRAIN), which is a partnership that includes the Midwest Organic and Sustainable Education Service (MOSES) and the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Field day sponsors include the Organic Seed Alliance, Ag Business Council of Rock County Inc., Albert Lea Seed, Blue Farm, and USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service.
Other speakers will include Nick Baker of Rock County Extension; Dave Gundlach of the Rock County Natural Resources Conservation Service; Matt Leavitt, an organic specialist with MOSES; 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.
The field day includes a networking lunch for small grains buyers and sellers to connect with one another. To reserve a meal, contact Debra Boekholder, firstname.lastname@example.org or 515-232-5661 by Friday, July 6.
Directions from I-90: Take Exit 177, head west on WI Hwy 11 and turn left (south) on U.S. 51.
— Midwest Organic & Sustainable Education Service
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