Farmers Talk Conservation At Iowa Farm Show

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The Iowa Power Farming Show in Des Moines has about seven acres of floor space dedicated to the latest farm technology, but some of it's devoted to a subject that's old as dirt.

Healthy soils normally contain abundant organic matter, which aids in proper drainage and infiltration of water.

In an educational program at the show, farmers from across the Midwest gathered to talk production and water quality with healthy soils.

Indiana farmer Mike Starkey grows corn and soybeans near Indianapolis; in fact, his land drains into a reservoir that's also used for drinking water in Indianapolis.

He no-tills his cash crops and in the off-season, plants cover crops.

He says both of those practices have virtually eliminated flooding on his fields, but improved water retention enough to push him through the drought in 2012.

In addition, he says a university scientist has documented that due to his conservation practices, water leaving his farm is now cleaner than when it enters his land.

Starkey may be a conservation success story, but he's clear that he didn't get there overnight, and he didn't get there alone, "Input costs were skyrocketing, equipment costs, the steel really cost a lot of money, my fertilizer was really going up in value. I was applying so much that I wasn't getting any benefit like I should have and my yields were plateauing. I had to make a change and with that, with other no-tillers learn from them, what works best, what doesn't work best, it was very critical you learn from your peers how no-till works."

Helping the soil with conservation practices like no-till and cover crops is promoted by the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship (IDALS) through conservation cost-shares.

Also at the Iowa Power Farming show program, Water Quality Coordinator Matt Lechtenberg with IDALS says it starts with a few farmers trying it out, for everyone to see the benefits.

Lechtenberg says, "I think we just continue to advance and the momentum is certainly there and continues to grow. More folks are hearing about it, more folks are talking to their neighbors and it's becoming a hot topic and people are really raising their hands and saying,'What is it that I need to be doing?' I want to be engaged in the process. You know we're seeing a tremendous amount of folks coming to field days and other events that are out there. And they want to learn and they want to see what they can do on their own farms and they're willing to try it and and see how it works."

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