Dodge County Farmers share conservation research at annual Soil Health Expo

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Dodge County Farmers for Healthy Soil & Healthy Water (DCF HSHW) brought together farmers, community members and industry experts to share conservation research outcomes and celebrate their continued efforts to make a positive impact on the environment.

The Soil Health Expo took place on Wednesday, Feb. 7, drawing more than 130 attendees to the Juneau Community Center.

DCF president Tony Peirick of T and R Dairy Farm, LLC welcomed attendees. He shared the group’s accomplishments from the past year, including the seven events they hosted. He spoke about goals for 2024, stating that the group wishes to increase its community engagement and membership over the coming year.

Featured speaker Blake Vince of Merlin, Ontario, Canada, shared stories about his conservation studies and worldwide travels. Vince was a recipient of a Nuffield Farming Scholarship, a prestigious honor awarded to global agricultural leaders, which allowed him to study cover crops and the importance of biodiversity.

During his presentation, Vince discussed the benefits of planting cover crops and the importance of having biodiversity within an ecosystem. Monocultures, he said, don’t occur in natural environments and can impact soil health.

Vince challenged farmers to try new things, keep learning and share their own stories with others. He hopes farmers will use their voices to inspire others to keep improving.

 “What I’m hoping to do at the end of the day is not talk at you but convince you that you have a voice to empower others,” he said.

DCF’s 2023 Member Conservation Practice Survey results were presented by Farmers for Sustainable Food data collection specialist Shawn Wesener.

“This group really excels in no-till usage and planting green,” Wesener said.

 Based on the findings, 48% of the 36,507 cropped acres surveyed had cover crops and 34% were planted green. The 2023 survey gathered data from 49 respondents, encompassing a total of 39,232 acres, 5,959 dairy animals and 2,843 beef animals.

 Jeff Hadachek, University of Wisconsin Madison assistant professor in ag and applied economics discussed the finances behind adding wheat to the crop rotation. Corn and soybeans generally dominate crop rotations in Dodge County and throughout the U.S., driven by price, he explained. During his presentation, he examined how yields change over time in a corn-soy-wheat rotation.

“Realizing what the costs are can help us move forward on our farms,” Hadachek said. “Ultimately, in addition to being environmentally sustainable, practices also need to be economically sustainable.”

Attendees also heard a series of Lightning Talks focusing on local and regional research projects.

Bill Stangel of Soil Solutions Consulting presented results from a two-year nitrogen optimization pilot program through the Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection. The project aims to build confidence in decision-making regarding nitrogen application rates on the farm.

 Jim Stute, an independent research agronomist from East Troy, provided an update on the first year of a two-year research trial focused on the relationship between rye cover crop termination and weed suppression.

 The Sand County Foundation field projects director Greg Olson spoke about a soil health project comparing conventional fields to no-till in the 2023 drought. Using soil sensor data, Olson found that soil health systems had better water infiltration and marginally better water retention.

“We were encouraged by the number of farmers that attended the Soil Health Expo,” Tony Peirick said. “This group works year-round to help farmers implement new practices that are sustainable and productive; it is good to see the growing interest in the rest of what we are doing among our neighbors.”

Closing out the meeting, Jeff Gaska and President Tony Peirick were re-elected to serve another term on the DCF board of directors. Brendon Blank transitioned to an advisor role and Isabella Kraus was elected to fill that board position.

 Other board members are Vice President Marty Weiss, Treasurer David Roche, Secretary Isabella Kraus, Andy Wyse, Jeff Gaska, and Randy Braker. Advisors are Bill Stangel, Will Fulwider, Bill Nass, John Bohonek, Robert Bird, Andrew Condon, Phillip Laatsch, Jared Winter and Dale Macheel.

 Photos:

Blake Vince presenting

Jeff Hadachek presenting

Lightning Talk speakers

Board and advisors  

Caption: (Back L-R) Randy Braker, Brendon Blank, David Roche, Jeff Gaska, Phillip Laatsch, Andy Wyse, Tony Peirick, Bill Stangel, Will Fulwider (Front L-R) John Bohonek, Dale Macheel, Marty Weiss and Isabella Kraus. Missing from photo: Bill Nass, Jared Winter, Andrew Condon and Robert Bird.

Dodge County Farmers Soil Health Expo

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Join us at Juneau Community Center (500 Lincoln Dr., Juneau) on Feb. 7 starting at 8:30 a.m. for our Soil Health Expo. Come and learn about our group’s progress from the past year and discuss what’s next for conservation.

RSVP here by Feb. 1.

More details coming soon!

Dodge County Farmers HSHW Field event

field day invite


Topic: Grazing interseeded covers interseeded into 60” rows

Description: Join us for coffee and donuts! Jeff Gaska, DCF member, and Will Fulwider, Dodge and Dane County Extension Crops Educator, will discuss 3 different cover crop mix trials for forage quality and production, and what that means for profitability. Additional topics include what is the right population for interseeding on 60 inch rows and can we drop population while maintaining yield. Jeff will share his experience grazing multispecies cover crop after wheat and grazing opportunities with your neighbor.

Location: Gaska’s Farm (N4301 County Rd TT, Columbus, WI)

*Park by the barn to the right and we will walk to the field. Field location here.

DCF Showcase Cover Crops at September Event 

DCF Crop tour

Dodge County Farmers (DCF) held their annual cover crop showcase focused on a variety of cover crop plots and a rain fall simulator. This educational event was hosted by DCF member, Dale Macheel of Macheel Farms, including presentations by NRCS and Byron Seeds. The plot included mixes developed across the Unites States and Europe. The rainfall simulator demonstrated the water infiltration in a tilled soil sample and a grass cover sample.  

The field was previously wheat and high diversity cover crop mixes were planted the first week of August. Brendon Blank, DCF member and Byron Seeds representative, led the walk through the plot and highlighted the benefits of each group of cover crop species. Some of the cover crop mixes had around a dozen different species in them.  

“Different roots structures mean that every plant species has a different ability to extract nutrients from the soil,” said Blank.  

Brendon explained that legumes are used to retain fixated nitrogen in the nodes before planting corn the following year. Cover crops with large biomass and root structures are used to combat compaction. Cover crops with tall, stiff stems are used to collect snow in the winter to be used as moisture when the temperature rises in the spring. Cover crops mixes that have lots of biomass in the leaf size and shape can grow a strong canopy that prevents unwanted weeds from emerging and growing. Flowering cover crops attract new, beneficial insects to the field to increase pollination as well. Matching the seed mix to the goals you have on your farm is critical to see desired results. 

NRCS presented a rainfall simulator on a tilled soil sample and a grass cover sample. Water was applied to the soil and collected as it filtrated. The tilled sample had 1.5 times more water collected after the demonstration. This showcased the purpose of using a cover crop for water and nutrient retention, along with reduced erosion. The other goals of cover crops might include increasing biodiversity, reducing soil compaction, and weed suppression. 

Fall Cover Crop Showcase

Cover Crop Showcase - Sept. 28
Join us Wednesday, Sept. 27 for our Fall Cover Crop Showcase.

The event will showcase cover crops, Phosphorus reduction with weir and a rainfall simulator.
Location: Across the road from W10974 County Road CC, Beaver Dam
Host: Macheel Farms
 
No RSVP needed
Refreshments and snacks to follow at Zig’s Lakeside Pub And Grill (W11146 Co Rd G, Beaver Dam)
 
Field location map: 
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On-farm demonstrations show tire pressure is a key factor in preventing soil compaction

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Nearly 100 farmers and ag professionals gathered at Roche Farms on August 8 for an equipment, compaction and soil health event organized by Dodge County Farmers for Healthy Soil and Healthy Water. Several university educators from Minnesota and Wisconsin taught farmers the effects compaction has on soil health.

Jodi DeJong-Hughes, University of Minnesota-Extension regional educator and Francisco Arriaga, UW-Madison Associate Soil Science professor, began the meeting identifying myths about soil compaction and factors affecting compaction. Farmers learned how management practices, most importantly checking the PSI of their tires and considering how many axles are distributing the equipment weight, can impact soil health. Arriaga focused on soil aggregation, pore size distribution, and its importance in soil health. When there isn’t correct pore size distribution yields can decrease by up to 60%.

Jake Kraayenbrink, owner of Agribrink, shared how he went from being a pig farmer in Canada to the founder and developer of an inflations/deflation tire system sold globally. He discussed how factoring tractor speed and equipment weight; they could set the correct tire pressure to lower the impact of compaction. He also shared that because equipment has gotten gradually 900 pounds heavier each year since 1960, the increased weight has led to decreases in soil health. He emphasized that setting the correct tire pressure will help save the soil.

Farmers had the opportunity to walk the fields for insightful demonstrations to see the effects of compaction under the soil profile. Kraayenbrink and DeJong-Hughes led discussions in a lasagna pit. The difference from a traditional soil pit and a lasagna pit is that it’s four feet deep of layered sand and topsoil. Once the pit is layered, David Roche backed over one side of the pit with a tanker with a tire pressure of 33 PSI and the other side with 10 PSI. The impressions on the soil pit were 7.5 inches deep and 4.5 inches deep, respectively. Once the pit was dug open, everyone could see how far the pressure went down. This provided an easy to understand visual of how compaction is affecting farm fields.

Another field demonstration led by Arriaga was a buried pressure bulb test to demonstrate the difference between a tire and track combine. He set up two sites using 12-inch-deep trenches with hoses filled with liquid. This set a level for farmers to watch to see if the water went up when the equipment drove over the trench. Using this demonstration, he can measure the pressure the equipment puts on the ground, increasing the risk for soil compaction.

Brain Luck, UW-Madison associate professor and extension specialist, presented a demonstration using pressure mats. The pressure mats show that a contact map patch grew in size when tire pressure decreased. This relates to soil compaction because there is less pressure on the soil when there is a larger footprint. He expressed its importance to find the optimal tire pressure where farmers can successfully work in the fields while minimizing soil compaction impact.

View the videos below to see the demonstrations and to learn more about the impacts of soil compaction.

Soil health event covering compaction concerns

Dodge County Farmers for Healthy Soil and Healthy Water will explore compaction concerns and the effect equipment has on soil health. The group will host an educational event in Columbus with several speakers and demonstrations. The event begins at 9:30 a.m. on Aug. 8. It is open to the public, and a meal will be provided. Please RSVP by Aug. 1:   https://bit.ly/DCFAug8.

Join us in an exploration of soil health topics with the following experts: 

Jodi 2Jodi DeJong-Hughes is a regional educator with the University of Minnesota Extension. Her specialization includes tillage systems, soil compaction and improving soil health. DeJong-Hughes’ work focuses on reducing soil erosion and building soil health to improve the grower’s bottom line and reduce the movement of soil and nutrients to our natural waterways. She enjoys working alongside growers, ag industry and government agencies to bring high-quality educational programs and research to the people of Minnesota and beyond. She will discuss what compaction is and why farmers are concerned about it.

Francisco ArriagaFrancisco Arriaga is a University of Wisconsin-Madison assistant professor and soil extension specialist. Arriaga directs the Sustainable Soil Management Laboratory and provides extension outreach. He does research in applied soil physics and water management and supports the development of management systems that promote crop productivity and soil and water conservation. He will be presenting on compaction sources – tillage, equipment and his current research.

Jake KJake Kraayenbrink is the president and owner of Agribrink. He has worked with farmers to understand the effects compaction has on soil health since the mid-1980s. His passion for soil health and investigation of tire inflation/deflation technology led to the start of AgriBrink. With encouragement from an engineer friend, he built the AgriBrink CTIS (central inflation/deflation system). The company has locations in Ontario, Canada, the Netherlands, the UK and Ames, Iowa.

AgriBrink CTIS allows farmers to widen their application window, reduce compaction, protect soil structure, lower fuel consumption, extend tire life and reduce yield loss. Kraayenbrink will share how tire pressure and other strategies can reduce equipment compaction.

Brian LuckBrian Luck is an associate professor and extension specialist for UW-Madison. Luck directs the Wisconsin Machinery Extension Lab, which provides unbiased information about machinery and precision agriculture technologies. His research focuses on machine automation, data acquisition and image processing. He will perform a field demonstration with pressure mats and various compaction tools.

 

Details

Who: Dodge County Farmers for Healthy Soil and Healthy Water  

What: Equipment, Compaction and Soil Health

When: 9:30 a.m. – 3:00 p.m. on Aug. 8

Where: Roche Farms (N3339 Roche Rd, Columbus, WI)

Meeting agenda

  • “What is Compaction and Why are we Concerned About it?” Jodi DeJong-Hughes
  • “Compaction Sources – Tillage, Equipment and Current Research” Francisco Arriaga
  • “Using Tire Pressure and other Strategies to Reduce Equipment Compaction” Jake Kraayenbrink
  • “Pressure Mats and Various Compaction Tools” Brian Luck
  • Field demonstrations
    • Lasagna pit: Jake Kraayenbrink and Jodi DeJong-Hughes
    • Buried pressure bulb: Francisco Arriaga

Equipment Compaction and Soil Health Event

Thursday, August 8 - 9:30 a.m. Location: Roche Grain N3339 Roche Rd, Columbus, WI 53925

Speakers: 
Jodi DeJong-Hughes: What is compaction, and why are we concerned about it
Francisco Arriaga: Compaction sources – tillage, equipment and current research
Jake Kraayenbrink: Using tire pressure and other strategies to reduce equipment compaction
Brian Luck: Pressure mats and various compaction tools
Field demonstrations: Lasagna pit and Buried pressure bulb demo
Speaker bios click here

Download flyer here

Download agenda here

 

Order a Dodge County Farmers for Healthy Soil and Healthy Water shirt!
Click the image below. 

Pre-planting workshop

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On April 4, over 60 folks gathered at Macheel Farms in Randolph, WI, for the Dodge County Farmers for Healthy Soil, Healthy Water spring planter tune-up meeting. 

The group heard from Brendon Blank as he gave an overview of the cover crop trails the group is doing and shared the benefits the group is learning. He expressed the importance of cover crops when doing no-till. They go hand in hand; to have success with no-tilling you need to pair it with cover crops. 

Jeremy Hughes, product manager from Horsch reminded the farmers that getting back to the basics in planter preparation makes for a successful spring. He talked through the all the items a farmer should check including the tractor and planter details. 

Macheel Farms had the new Hosch Avatar planter in their shop to showcase. After Hughes’s presentation the team from Horsch and Vanderloop Equipment talked through specifics of the planter and offered demonstrations.  Learn more in the videos below. 

 Again, thank you to the event sponsors, Higher Grounds Coffee Shop for bringing coffee and Vanderloop Equipment and Horicon State Bank for sponsoring the meal. 

 

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Spring planter tune-up discussion

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Join Dodge County Farmers-Healthy Soil, Healthy Water for our spring planter tune-up discussion at Macheel Farms on Tuesday, April 4, 2023.
Location: Macheel Farms – N9460 County Rd FW, Randolph WI
Agenda:
11 a.m. – Registration
11:30 a.m. – Brendon Blank – fertilizer value of cover crops
Noon – Free lunch provided by DCF (made by Chef Chanse)
1 p.m. – Jeremy Hughes, Horsh product manager will talk through planter set-up for spring and introduce the       new Avatar planter (sponsored by Vanderloop Equipment)
2:30 p.m. – wrap-up
Please RSVP by March 30 https://forms.gle/a4TL7MVoeyctkeDw8