The 2017 Innovation Grant Program is well underway, with the Minnesota Corn Growers Association (MCGA) investing more than $250,000 in 23 farmer-led projects focused on conservation. Throughout the summer we have been highlighting ongoing projects focused on how to better manage nitrogen and protect water quality.
There was a time when Brian Ryberg tilled the land on his Buffalo Lake farm until the soil was solid black prior to another season of corn-on-corn planting. Fast forward to today, Ryberg has adopted side dressing to better manage nitrogen application, strip tilling to promote soil health, and with the help of the Innovation Grant Program, went all-in on cover crops using a system that allows for efficient planting.
With funds from the Innovation Grant program, Ryberg purchased an air seeder that he attached to his split nitrogen application toolbar. As Ryberg applies his supplemental nitrogen early in the season when corn is in the V4-V6 stages, he uses the seeder to plant cover crops in between his rows of corn.
Standing as high as eight inches today, Ryberg’s cover crops will promote soil health through root activity that aids in nutrient absorption and water infiltration. And by simply adding the seeder to his nitrogen applicator, he is able to reap these benefits without an additional pass in his farm operation.
The efficiency of the operation and its benefits has led Ryberg to plant cover crops on all of his acres in 2018. The process will begin on 100 percent of his soybean acres after harvest, followed by planting cover crops on nearly 1,800 corn acres while side dressing nitrogen early in the planting season.
Ryberg’s experience has made him an advocate for cover crops, including telling his story at a recent Soil Health Partnership Field Day. He has enjoyed seeing the mindset around cover crops change with even the most veteran of farmers.
“I have an 87-year-old landlord who plowed until the day he retired,” Ryberg said. “After discussing cover crops, he has come to understand the benefits. It is fun to see that mentality changing.”
Do you have a conservation-minded research project in mind? We are now accepting applications for the 2018 Innovation Grant Program. Find out more at mncorn.org/research-rfps.