The Ottumwa Courier

September 11, 2013

Local farmers meet to discuss cover crops

Courier staff writer

---- — HEDRICK — Iowa Learning Farms partnered with Competine Creek Watershed Coordinator Ryan Rasmussen, Practical Farmers of Iowa and members from the Iowa State Extension on Wednesday to hold an informative Field Day for local farmers. The event was held at local farmer Mark Jacobs' land at the corner of 160th Street and Competine Road.

Farmers from around the area came to listen to speakers and participate in discussion about the use of cover crops, which is a new farm practice that is growing in popularity around the Midwest.

The hosts brought in two speakers — soil expert Shawn Dettmann and farmer Stephen Nebel — to discuss the possible gains from using cover crops and how to do use them properly. They shared their findings and answered questions from the farmers in attendance, but mostly were there to discuss the local land with those who know it best.

"I know very little; the farmers are the ones with all of the knowledge," Dettmann said. "They work the land, so they are the experts. It's great hearing what they have to say and seeing them so excited about using cover crops."

Using cover crops is a practice that is gradually making its way onto more farms. The basic idea is to plant the crops after the main harvesting has been done. The cover crops aid to the health of the soil, suppress weeds and provide erosion control, among other benefits. Majority of the cover crops used in southern Iowa have been rye thus far, but plenty of other plants are also being used.

Jacobs and his family have been using cover crops for the past four years, and he has been very pleased with the results he has found. He uses the crops as a way to get more feed for his cattle but has seen other benefits other than having to buy less feed.

"It's just easier to manage beans when you use cover crops," he said. "We will definitely continue to use them."

The Field Day was designed to further educate the farmers in the area and to encourage them to look into using cover crops. It gave them a chance to not only hear from the people doing the science, but from their peers who have used this method and have seen positive outcomes.

"Not only are they hearing from us, but they are talking with each other and having a really good discussion," Jamie Benning, from the Iowa State Extension, said. "It's all about their experiences and local knowledge."

Others interested in learning about cover crops and the positives that come from them are encouraged to visit the Practical Farmers of Iowa website at or call 515-232-5661.