Fall Field Day to follow-up on cover crops; Mower SWCD offering free tours of three farms on Oct. 31

Published 6:00 am Thursday, August 31, 2017

By Tim Ruzek


Local producers will reopen their Mower County farms this fall to show their cover crops after harvest as well as discuss other soil-health practices.

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Mower Soil and Water Conservation District is planning a free Fall Field Day for Oct. 31 as a follow-up to a similar tour offered in late May on cover crops and soil health that drew about 90 people.

In the spring, the event showcased cover crop fields at three area farms – Tom Cotter, Tom Finnegan and Terry and Cindy Hamilton – by busing participants to the sites.

Cotter and Finnegan have been doing extensive outreach work on cover crops and soil health under a Cover Crop Champion grant this year awarded by the National Wildlife Federation to the Mower SWCD office. The spring field day was part of that grant and covered topics that included harvesting and grazing cover crops; no-till and strip-till planting into terminated cover crops; and herbicide options for conventional corn and soybeans.

This fall, Mower SWCD will offer a similar event that once again will start and end at Riverland Community College’s east campus parking lot in northwest Austin, with free busing provided once again to the host sites.

Details on the Fall Field Day’s schedule still need to be finalized but the Cotter, Finnegan and Hamilton farms all have agreed to be host sites during the day.

“We are excited to offer another field day for people of all backgrounds – farmers, ag professionals, students and the general public,” said Steve Lawler, Mower SWCD’s resource specialist and soil scientist. “There continues to be a growing interest in cover crops and soil health, and our office is planning more work on this in the coming years.”

Cover cropping involves planting a second, unharvested crop in coordination with regular cash crops, such as corn and soybeans. Interest is growing in cover crops throughout Minnesota, and Mower County is helping to highlight their benefits when incorporated into agricultural practices.

Lawler helped form Mower SWCD’s new soil health initiative and has worked closely with local producers the past two years through a Mower Soil Health Team. Members of the team have working knowledge of cover cropping and reduced tillage systems and are committed to providing one-on-one outreach to other area producers seeking to learn more about those and other management practices.

Mower SWCD’s Fall Field Day also will touch on  the state’s Minnesota Agricultural Water Quality Certification Program, also known as Ag Certainty. The voluntary program was created by Gov. Mark Dayton as a partnership between federal and state governments and private industry that works with farmers and local SWCDs to identify and fix risks to water quality on a field-by-field, whole-farm basis. Producers who treat all risks to water quality on their operation are certified and deemed in compliance with new water-quality rules and laws for 10 years.

The Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education program says cover crops offer economic and ecological benefits:

• Reducing fertilizer costs.

• Improving crop yields by enhancing soil health.

• Reducing the need for herbicides and pesticides.

• Preventing soil erosion.

• Conserving soil moisture.

• Protecting water quality.

• Helping to safeguard personal health.

Those interested in getting updates when the Fall Field Day’s details are finalized should contact Mower SWCD at 507-434-2603 or tim.ruzek@mowerswcd.org to get on an email list for the event or follow the Mower SWCD online via its Facebook page or website (www.mowerswcd.org).