4R Plus & Conservation Farming Part 1: Getting Started

by | Jul 26, 2021 | 5 Ag Stories, News

Before you dismiss anything written as just another article about conservation farming and cover crops, I really want you to look at this with an open mind. We are talking to an Iowa farmer who not only follows the practices, but he believes in them. He is willing to tell anyone who will listen about the benefits he is seeing through the 4R Plus Program, and he wants you to see those benefits too.

This isn?t just another feel-good look at what farmers are doing for their soil and water. This is going to be a multi-part look at one operation, and a farmer who is more than willing to talk about the ups and downs he has experienced in his journey. We will talk about how to get started, the early stages, and the growing pains about getting started, and we will also look at the long-term benefits he is seeing and why he feels it is important for farmers to get involved now.

We have talked about the 4Rs in farming before.

  1. Right time
  2. Right rate
  3. Right source
  4. Right place

We have talked about how these practices can be incorporated into your farm. We have talked about conservation farming and the different techniques and how they fit. Now, much of this will be centered on cover crop practices, but it will also look broadly at the questions you will need to ask and what you should be thinking about as you start a journey into another way of farming.

Dale Launstein is a farmer in Grundy County, near the town of Holland, Iowa. He has been involved with cover crops and conservation practices for a while now. He talks about his operation which is now 100% cover crops. They use strip-till practices for corn and no-till for soybeans.

As we continue in this series we will talk to Dale about what he is seeing this year and the challenges that all farmers have. We will discuss lessons he has learned and where he has fine-tuned his operation. We will discuss what benefits he has seen so far, and what he hopes to see in the future. Finally, we will wrap with why he is a firm believer in these practices, and where he thinks may head into the future.

But for today, we are going to focus on just getting started.

When you look to get started, obviously you will have some questions. Anything you do to change your operation should be questioned. The key is to ask the right questions. Launstein talks about the things you should consider and the questions you should ask when trying to get started.

Dale says that one of the big hypes in cover crops is the reduction of fertilizers. He says that while there is going to be a reduction, some operations will need to still do some supplementing. Corn still needs the right amount of nutrients at the right time.

He talks about the fertilizer program they are utilizing through Granular from Pioneer. He talks about monitoring the plants and giving them what they need only when it is truly needed. They still put some nitrogen out to start the year and supplement as needed.

Launstein says you also must look long-term, beyond the initial switch. He says if you started in a year like 2021, you likely ran into some hiccups with late-season frost and drought. He says to not be discouraged and keep plugging away on the program. He says that you should alter your crop insurance elections to help keep you covered as you wade into these new waters.

Launstein agrees with many experts who say that you should start small and really get a feel for what you are doing before expanding it on to more acres. That way you are ready for the problems that pop up.

When you start anything new, expect some growing pains. It took years and decades to get your farm to where it is. Do not expect to see drastic changes overnight. Don?t get discouraged. It will take some time to get things established. One issue he has seen that discourages producers is seeing a bug infestation when operations first get started.

Launstein talks about what you need to know as you get started into planning corn directly into cover crops. He talks about getting nitrogen timed correctly and how to do it.

Launstein says the biggest thing you need to be aware of when you start in these programs is that you are not alone. There are farmers around who have been doing this for years. They believe in it, and they want to see you succeed. It doesn?t matter what hybrids you plant or what color your equipment is, it is about doing things better. He says that you shouldn?t be afraid to reach out.

Learn more about 4R Plus and conservation farming practices, log on to the 4R Plus website.