Farmers and the public are invited to check out wide-ranging cover crop methods at nine fields and seven farms across the county as part of the Winona County Soil and Water Conservation District’s (SWCD) Spring Cover Crop Tour, now through July. On the self-guided tour, attendees can visit farm fields and see a number of soil health techniques in action — from no-till planting to planting green, from interseeding to double cropping.
“In general, farmers are really hands-on. Seeing is believing,” Winona County SWCD Resource Specialist Lance Klessig said. “So this provides them a way to actually visit these sites, have a shovel with them, and their brother or son or daughter or neighbor with them and actually see firsthand.”
Developed as a COVID-safe substitute for traditional field days, this self-guided tour also offers farmers the chance to visit and learn on their own schedule. “So normally we have a field day, and it’s a one-time deal. But this gives farmers an opportunity to come look at things pre-planting season, during plant, and in June and July when the crop is up,” Klessig said.
At each stop of on the tour, a sign provides some information about what cover crops and conservation techniques are in use on the field and what the farmer’s goals are in using them. “Pull into the farm driveway or field access. There’s the light blue sign that has our logo and says ‘Cover Crop Tour,’” Klessig explained. “People are able to get out and walk through the field. I’m really encouraging people to bring a shovel so they can dig and look, not only at the cover crops, but the soil and see what the differences are with the soil and the roots of the plant. Later on, in June or July, they can take a look at how well the crops are actually doing.” Each stop also lists the farmer’s number, and Klessig encouraged attendees to call the host farmers with specific questions.
The tour includes a variety of crop and dairy farms, a range of farm sizes, and numerous farms that have been using cover crops for several years. “We’re trying to cover all the bases for why people say they’ve heard [cover cropping] doesn’t work or why it fails, and here are guys that are quite a ways into their journey with it,” Klessig said.
Attendees who take a photo of or selfie with the sign at any spot and post it the Winona County SWCD’s Facebook page (@WinonaSWCD) or email it to Lance.Klessig@winonaswcd.org will be entered to win a $50 Fleet Farm gift card in an August 1 drawing.
For more information, call 507-523-2171, ext. 3, or visit www.winonaswcd.org.
A. Sheldon Luehmann - Goal: Reduce weeds and armor soil - Soybeans with roller crimped rye.
B. Mike and Dave Unruh - Goal: Decrease soil erosion - Vertical tillage/seeder combo, planting soybeans green.
C. Mike and Dave Unruh - Goal: Feed the soil biology - Vertical tillage/seeder combo, planting corn green.
D. Sheldon Luehmann - Goal: Living roots in the soil 24/7 - 60-inch corn interseeded at V2-V4.
E. Ben Daley - Goal: Hold nitrogen in the soil - Broadcast cereal rye, manure injection.
F. Everett Rolfing - Goal: Decrease soil erosion - Broadcast via fertilizer buggy, planting crops green.
G. Bob Christie - Goal: Armor the soil - Cereal rye, winter peas, vetch, no-till drilled.
H. Robb and Luke Miller - Goal: Produce quality dairy feed - Drilled tritcale, double-cropped soybeans.
I. Ryan and Dan Olson - Goal: Ideal planting conditions - Broadcast via airflow then shallow vertical tillage.