Profiles in Soil Health - Meet Dan Ley
A Better Soil Quality Leads to a Better Quality of Life
Stearns County, Minnesota
Crops: Corn, Beans, Alfalfa
Planting: 100% No till
Covers: Annual rye, Vetch
Dan Ley has run the family dairy farm since 2006 and had a great example to follow as his dad started reduced tillage before he took the farm over. Dan’s father set the course for what he now is seeing to be a very profitable way to farm. His farm is 257 acres and it is 100% no-till. The Ley family started no-till in 2000 and saw the benefits in just two years. They had cut their time in the field which cut their fuel costs and led to a much higher net profit.
Each year, Dan notices that his fields soak up the rain better which allows for less erosion and healthier crops. He also cannot help but to notice all the worms in his fields that are continuously eating away at residue on the ground surface from last year’s crop. The best part of implementing all these soil health practices is that he has been able to cut back on applying most all of his inorganic type of fertilizers.
Dan went on a trip with the Minnesota NRCS and SWCD to Bismarck, North Dakota in the summer of 2013. There he learned that rotating his dairy cattle in pastures and allowing his pastures time to rest was going to help him and his soil out even more. He is planning to split his one big pasture into quarters in the next year and maybe more in the future.
Another idea that Dan picked up during the visit to North Dakota was that cover crops that are nitrogen fixers, planted next to a corn plant, will give symbiotic benefits to both plants. The thought that he and many farmers have is that the cover crop is a competing plant. The truth is though that fungi will attach to roots of both plants and the nitrogen fixer plant will give nitrogen straight to the corn plant through the fungi producing higher yields!
Dan notices that the healthier his soils become the better the quality of life he has. His goal is to leave the land better than what he found it and cut back on having to put inorganic fertilizers to produce a crop. He has found that soil health practices are a sustainable way to farm and create a healthier lifestyle.
The better quality my soil has become has directly influenced a better quality of life for me.
~ Dan Ley, landowner
Eligible producers can recieve financial assistance for cover crops and other conservation solutions through NRCS' Environmental Quality Incentives Program, or EQIP.
To learn more about using cover crops on your operation or improving the health of your soil, visit http://www.nrcs.usda.gov/wps/portal/nrcs/main/national/soils/health/ or stop by your local USDA Service Center.
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Dan Ley Soil Health Profile Fact Sheet
[PDF: 412 KB]