Biljean Farms share benefits of long term no-till 


by Jamie Fisher

Dodge County Farmers for Healthy Soil & Healthy Water (HSHW) hosted a field day on Aug. 11 at Bill Nass’s farm, Biljean Farms, in Watertown, Wis. Over 80 attendees learned about nutrient management, residual herbicides, species selection and soil health.


Kevin Shelley, University of Wisconsin Madison nutrient and pest management educator, presented on nutrient management and species selection. He highlighted the importance of focusing on what you want from the crop when selecting plant species. Seeding rates and planting at optimal depth also drive a crop’s success. Shelley emphasized a single species can outperform more complex mixtures.


Nick Arneson, weed science outreach program manager at WiscWeeds Lab, presented on residual herbicides. Arneson focuses on corn, soybeans and small grain production in his work. He discussed effective burn down times after harvest and the importance of collecting biomass samples.


A short presentation on grass waterways was also shared by Jared Winter, Dodge County land & water conservation technician.


Jamie Patton, senior outreach specialist with UW-Madison nutrient and pest management program, impressed attendees with her presentation on soil health in a soil pit. Patton shared results of a pit fall experiment to see what kind of insects are out in the field.


“There is quite a bit of diversity in this field,” Patton said. “Certain insects are beneficial because they eat weed seeds, organic matter and keep balance.”


Patton also talked about the glacial soil in the wheat field. There will almost always be some surface compaction; it’s not uncommon in a no-till field. The key is to gauge compaction.


“If I was a root, how hard would it be for me to get through the soil,” Patton said.


Patton share there is great value in stacking practices. When a farmer starts with a cover crop, it provides more biomass for the soil. Having something growing in the spring will then help improve soil erosion and water quality. Applying manure this time of year is also great for nutrients.


Biljean Farms has been practicing no-till for over 40 years. The improved soil health from practicing conservation was highlighted through the presentations by local experts.


Wrapping up the event was a field equipment demonstration of practicing strip till and no-till practices. Thank you to our sponsors Byron Seeds, Dairyland Seed, Martin-Till, PIP Seeds and State bank of Reeseville.


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