Farmers of the Sugar River Held Farm Tour August 28
September 10, 2020
On a beautiful Friday morning, more than a dozen farmers gathered at Bob Zurfluh's farm, south of County C, east of Monticello, to see the variety of practices Bob is experimenting with on his farm. The participants spread out in two wagons and toured the farm. Many stops were made to closely examine the results of his trials.
For several years Zurfluh has frost seeded alfalfa into his winter wheat. He spreads the seeds out into the dormant wheat with a fertilizer buggy in March when the ground is mostly clear of snow, but still freezing and thawing. His established stands look great. By frost seeding he gets the seeding started under the wheat and when the wheat comes off, the alfalfa pops. The next cropping year, the hay is fully established and ready to be taken for forage or dry hay. This year he tried seeding into winter triticale and had success.
Another thing Bob has done is growing no commercial nitrogen corn. He relies solely on the legume credit from the hay and manure applied the year before. The corn is no tilled into the hay and then the hay is terminated. He takes 2-3 cuttings the last year the field is in hay and then applies about 15 tons of manure to the living crop that will feed the next year's corn crop. The corn looks as healthy as any around.
Many grain producers spray out their volunteer wheat. Bob had a good volunteer crop of wheat last year so he let it grow through the fall and into spring in order to provide protection for the soil, have a living roots to feed the soil biology, and suppress weeds. This spring he planted soybeans into the standing wheat and then laid the wheat down with a cultimulcher since he didn't have a roller crimper handy. The beans are doing well and the ground has a good mat of dead wheat keeping moisture in, protecting the soil and keeping weeds at bay.
Zurfluh has also planted a cover crop of soybeans, cowpeas and radish after taking winter wheat off this summer to fix and trap nitrogen for next year's corn crop. He also put the mix into a hay field that will go into corn next year in an area that is compacted. The roots will grow to penetrate the compacted layer allowing water to infiltrate deeper in the soil profile and break up the compaction layer.
Farmers of the Sugar River, a producer-led watershed group, shares and learns from other farmers to be profitable, protect and increase soil functions and improves water quality in the watershed. They strive to teach other local farmers how to make conservation systems work on their farms to be part of the solution for cleaner waters and sustainable farms. The group has received grant money to distribute to farmers for trying conservation practices like Zurfluh has done. There is more information and an application for incentive payments for planting cover crops on the group's website at https://greencountylwcd.com/farmers-of-the-sugar-river/ or from the Green County Land and Water Conservation Department located at 1627 4th Avenue West, Monroe.
Contact Tonya Gratz at the Green County LWCD get on the email list or text list by calling (608) 325-4195 ext 121 or email Tonya.Gratz@wi.nacdnet.net.