Farmers protecting watersheds

WEBSTER CITY – In and attempt to continue to support the conservation efforts being implemented along the Boone River Watershed, local John Deere equipment dealers are working out the details of a collaborative effort with the Nature Conservancy and other groups to assist producers in improving their conservation practices and productivity with a focus on sustainability.

Karen Wilke, coordinator for the Nature Conservancy along the Boone River Watershed, said the watershed is a popular destination for outdoor recreation and has a high wildlife population.

Entities such as the Natural Resources and Conservation Service and Iowa Soybean Association working with producers to lower nitrate levels in the watershed, Wilke said.

Stan Watne, from Galt, who farms along with his brothers Tom and Knute Watne, said they attended an Aug. 1 field day in Webster City to learn more about being more conservation-minded in crop production.

“This is definitely something for us to at least talk about or try,” said Watne.

Watne said the brothers practice conservation tillage, and are looking over new equipment that has improved over the years.

“With the economy and lower grain prices,” Watne said, “everyone is looking to be as efficient as possible and it really does make sense to fertilize where and when you need it,” said Watne.

Better productivity

Pauley Bradley, nutrient application product manager for John Deere, said Deere, said the collaborative effort will give producers the opportunity to improve their productivity.

“These watershed initiatives are really a partnership and the farmer is very open to find out what is going on,” said Bradley. “They like to know what they are losing out of their fields.”

Bradley said there are many indicators of soil health including organic matter content, aggregate stability, water infiltration, water holding capacity, nutrient cycling and soil biology.

There are new tests, Bradley said, in the product pipeline to help producers determine these factors.

Bradley said there are three technologies available from John Deere through local dealers KC Nielsen and VanWall for producers to try that are within the watershed.

“Why is John Deere engaging in watershed work? We are committed to those linked to the land,” said Bradley.

Deere’s 2623 VT High Speed Vertical Tillage Disk, is a transitional tool for producers currently engaged in a conventional tillage system that would want to start increasing their conservation efforts.

According to Bradley, the 2623 VT Disk delivers conservation benefits by anchoring residue and leaving a soil-protecting mulch, but works the soil enough to help eliminate weeds and still leaves a good soil profile for the next tillage pass or planting in the spring.

The 2510S Strip-Till Nutrient Applicator, Bradley said can be set up to apply liquid or dry fertilizer, as well as anhydrous.

The 2510S, will move residue off of the row, leaving soil protecting mulch in the middle and help alleviate in-row compaction, injecting nutrients.

This is also a great transitional tool for those producers with currently practicing conventional tillage.

For next spring’s sidedressing nitrogen applications, John Deere has the 2510L nutrient applicator.

The 2510L, Bradley said, is available in 12-, 16-, or 24-row configurations and is fully equipped with rate controls.

Bradley said he is interested in seeing producers work the 2510S and 2510L in conjunction with strip trials.

On-Farm Network

To assist producers with strip trials, the ISA’s On-Farm Network is available to help monitor and conduct those trials.

Nathan Paul, operations manager for the On-Farm Network said they are made up of a team of 10 that include field research specialists, Geographic Information System mapping specialists and operations managers.

The On-Farm Network is for tracking conservation efforts done by participating farmers using precision ag tools and technologies to conduct trials on their own farms.

The testing, he said, is done in real world conditions typically using the farmer’s equipment with the results aggregated and summarized at the field, farm, county, watershed and beyond.

These results, will be put on the organization’s website, all anonymously and will be compared across multiple years.

A variety of precision ag tools, Paul said, can be used, but the producer at least has to have implements equipped with GPS and yield monitoring systems for the trials.

Any and all ideas, Paul said, for nitrogen replicated strip trials are welcome and some of the products used in the trials include cover crops, fungicides, herbicides, insecticides, seed treatments and nitrogen stabilizers and additives; along with nutrient management, planting dates, plant populations, usage of a roller, different row widths and various tillage practices.

During these replicated strip trials, Paul advised on keeping them simple by just comparing two, possibly three different treatments in one given trial and to try to replicate the trial at least four times in side-by-side strips at least the width of the producer’s combine header.

He said he would like to see more producers try a split-application of nitrogen trial, where 75 pounds per acre of nitrogen will be applied in either the fall or spring with an additional 75 pounds being sidedressed later in the growing season, then comparing that against a fall- or spring-applied, one-time application.

Conservation tech

Matt Fevold, integrated solutions manager for KC Nielsen; and Zach Leiser, AMS specialist for VanWall; teamed up to describe how some of John Deere’s current technology can help with a producer’s conservation efforts.

Fevold said the company’s GreenStar displays aid in monitoring and mapping fields. Their systems are available with the iTC and 3000 StarFire receivers.

The company’s RTK Network, Fevold said, is a dealer-managed network that provides complete coverage of a farm, allowing for pinpoint accuracy.

The entire Boone River Watershed, he said, is covered by the RTK Network.

“The RTK is a program that is favored by strip-till farmers,” he said.

Other conservation-aiding technologies include Deere’s AutoTrac, iTec Pro, Activated Implement Guidance, John Deere Section Control and variable rate capabilities.

Leiser said the website www.myjohndeere.com, is where producers log on to an application called JDLink, sign up their operation, and can track the crop practices in specific areas of their farm.

Leiser said users can track their machinery usage, such as fuel consumption, engine RPMs, codes and alerts and other tracking features.

JDLink features an operations center, Leiser said, where, if given permission, a producer’s dealership can log-in and help solve issues over the phone before making a service trip, or be better prepared for a service trip.

The operations center allows for filing field maps, and, with permission, a crop advisor can review those maps to make other management recommendations.