MCGA’s newest board member is a soil health innovator

Talking soil health on Bryan Biegler’s farm near Lake Wilson at a recent field day event.

Bryan Biegler, a farmer in Lake Wilson, Minn., has been appointed to an at-large position on the board of directors of Minnesota Corn Growers Association (MCGA).

Biegler has been farming for the past 25 years. He replaces Tim Wiersma on the MCGA board, who resigned due to other commitments, and will be up for election in January.

Four years ago, responding to problems with soil erosion on the land he was working, Biegler switched to strip till, a cultivation method that leaves the soil between the rows completely undisturbed. In combination with cover crops, this method is touted as a solution to soil losses that diminish productivity of farm fields, and can create water quality challenges.

When Biegler didn’t see the piece of machinery he thought would work best for his operation, he built it himself. Starting with a high clearance sprayer built by Hage, Inc., he took the liquid tank off and replaced it with a Gandy seed box and rigged the boom arms with 32 hoses to broadcast seed. In mid-to-late August, when the corn is getting mature and more light is reaching the ground, he goes through his fields and blows cover crop seed into the spaces between the rows.

Rye and other species get started, and flourish once the corn crop is harvested in October. In addition to planting covers on much of his own ground, Biegler custom plants cover crops for other farmers — he did 3,000 acres this year, and aims to keep growing his custom business.

“Cover crops hold onto the soil, and they also take up any leftover nutrients and save them for next year’s crop,” Biegler said. “The cover crop holds the soil all through the winter. When it’s killed before planting the decomposing rye and other plants slowly release nitrogen and other nutrients to feed the growing corn and soybean crops.”

Bryan Biegler MCGA Board Member

Bryan Biegler, MCGA Board Member

Biegler joined the Soil Health Partnership, an initiative of National Corn Growers Association. He is one of 65 farmers nationwide to engage whose soil is being tested to document the impact of conservation techniques. Biegler has made a five-year commitment and recently signed up for an additional five years.

“Using the strip till and cover crops, I have definitely seen benefits on the erosion side. I’ve had fields where it has helped out a lot,” Biegler said. “I’m also interested in learning whether it helps with compaction and building the fertility of the soil — accumulating the data on that is still in a process.”

Biegler feels he has experience to share when it comes to conservation tillage and cover crops, and doesn’t see conservation as a one-size-fits-all proposition.

He and his wife Lauren are both active in speaking out about agricultural practices to help non-farmers better understand what happens on the farm, and also to help direct public policy in a way that allows farmers room to develop stewardship practices that work for their particular landscape, and soils.

Lauren has taken part in CommonGround Minnesota, which is a group of farm women who volunteer their time talking to audiences about farming and answering questions about food. Bryan is vice president of Murray County Corn and Soybean Growers, and has been active with the local farmer group for the better part of a decade.

Besides his passion for farming, family is Beigler’s biggest priority. He and Lauren have three school-age children, which means they are looking for someone to discover a few extra hours in the day.

“It’s important to keep that balance,” says Biegler. “Family is where I like to devote most of my free time. It’s a lot of fun.”

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