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Profiles in Soil Health

In these short video profiles you can hear directly from some of the nation’s leading farmers to find out how they’re using soil health management systems to make their farms more profitable, productive and sustainable.

*The views and opinions expressed in these videos are those of the individuals featured therein and do not necessarily represent the official policy or position of any agency of the U.S. Government.

‘Under cover’ pastures yield multiple benefits for Missouri Farmer

Bob Ridgley’s primary purpose in planting cover crops is to increase forage for grazing. But in addition to getting late fall and early spring pastures for extra grazing, the Montgomery County farmer’s diverse cover crops are producing another benefit: improved soil health, which is resulting in better water infiltration and less erosion for his entire operation. Watch the four-minute video.

Russ Lester of Dixon Ridge Farms in Solano County, Calif., owns an organic orchard with a green carpet of cover crops.
 
Russ Lester of Dixon Ridge Farms in Solano County, Calif., owns an organic orchard with a green carpet of cover crops. From its micro-irrigation system suspended in the trees (emitters protected) to its on-site walnut processing plant fueled by biogas from the walnut hulls, Dixon Ridge Farms is a sort of gallery of innovative practices, all with carefully considered benefits for both production and the environment. Cover crops have an important place in Lester's list of progressive approaches. View the video.
 
Dexter Gilbert

Dexter Gilbert, who farms some 2,500 acres in Jackson County, Florida, says the combination of conservation tillage and cover crops has helped reduce input costs while improving his cotton, peanut and corn yields. He’s seeing more organic matter in the soil and he’s also happy with his soil’s pH levels. Watch the 2-minute video.

Rodney Rulon’s “Profile in Soil Health

Rodney Rulon and his family were a little bit reluctant to get started with cover crops. They didn’t have any experience with covers, and so they started with about 60 acres their first year. But the Arcadia, Indiana family soon saw the benefits and now have about 3,000 acres “under cover.” More importantly, they’re very pleased with the results. Watch the video: Profile in soil health: Rodney Rulon.

Jim Ward image

After years of conventional tilling, Massachusetts farmer Jim Ward says he watched his soil seemingly “wear down,” as organic matter levels decreased. He also noticed his irrigation rates were increasing and he was struggling to maintain the high quality of his crops. Now, thanks to his efforts to restore the soil through no-till and cover crops, he’s beginning to harvest the benefits—namely big reductions in water usage. Watch the video on Jim Ward.

 

Brock image with Video button

If Kirk Brock had to go back to conventional farming, he says he would “just quit and go do something else.”

He sees traditional conventional tillage farming systems as more of a “hope and prayer” than as a good management system. With his soil health-building no-till and cover crop system, Mr. Brock doesn’t have to worry as much about timely rainfall events. And if intense rainfall occurs, he knows he can hold that water on his hillsides and allow it to percolate into the soil profile for his crops to use later. Watch the video on Kirk Brock.

Sandoval Photo for Soil Health

Loretta Sandoval focuses on soil health because it’s something she believes will create long-term resilience on her farm. As part of her soil health management system, she uses strict cropping rotations and specific cover crops following her cash crops. Like a growing number of farmers across the nation, Ms. Sandoval recognizes that healthy soil is her operation’s most important asset. Watch the Video on Loretta Sandoval.

 

Speer photo

Ryan Speer began formulating new ideas about how to farm. “It would take seven days from sun up to sun down to work all the ground, and you would get a half-inch shower, and guess what? Ryan knew there had to be a better way. Learn more in this short video profile. Watch video.

DeSutter image for Soil Health

Dan DeSutter is focusing on the long-term, but says he’s already seeing improved yields and better water infiltration on his farm thanks to his soil health management system. Watch video.

Starkey image for Soil Health

Mike Starkey says you have to be a good manager to make soil health management systems work. Producers should gradually “grow into it,” Mike says, and they should be open minded and willing to learn from their peers. Mike has done all of that, and it’s paying dividends on his farm. Watch video.

North Dakota farmer Mike Zook compares healthy, living soil to fallow, dead soil.

Anytime he sees a fallow field, Mike Zook says it reminds him of a dead environment – with nothing living there. As a result, fallow fields are not an option for Mike. He says they shouldn’t be an option for anyone. See video.

 

Crowley image for Soil Health

Through the use of no-till and cover crops, Darryl Crowley says his land now absorbs more water, which helps his crops. And he has all but eliminated wind and water erosion. Now, when he sees dust blowing off of other farms, he doesn’t just see the loss of topsoil – he sees the loss of someone’s future. Watch video.

 

North Carolina farmer Leon Moses describes the many positive returns of conservation.

Leon Moses has seen a 35-45 percent return on his soil health investment. By using no-till and cover crops, he’s also saving time, his equipment and he’s creating a more sustainable condition for the farm. See video.

 

Indiana farmer Jack Maloney found that practicing conservation saved him time, money, labor and machinery.

Thanks to his focus on soil health, Jack Maloney says his yields have increased on his “Little Ireland Farms” every year for the past 10 years. “It hasn’t been easy,” he says, “but with the right attitude, you can make it work.” See video.

Unlock the Secrets of the Soil

Voices of Soil Health: Hear from some of America's farmers who are unlocking the secrets of the soil. See video.