Cover crop field day scheduled on Austin farm

Published 8:00 pm Monday, June 25, 2018

A field day focused on cover crops, interseeding, grazing cover crop mixes and roller crimping will be from 1 to 4 p.m. July 10 at the Tom Cotter farm, 50203 205th St. in Austin. Registration for this free event, which is co-sponsored by the Land Stewardship Project and the Iowa Organic Association, will begin at 12:45 p.m., and there will be burgers afterwards. RSVP by calling Toby Cain, Iowa Organic Association, at 563-447-0462, or Sarah Fillius, Land Stewardship Project, at 507-523-3366.

Cotter’s family has been farming in Mower County for 140 years, and they have worked with cover crops for the past 19 years. In 2016, Cotter and his late father, Michael, were given the Outstanding Conservationists Award by the Mower County Soil and Water Conservation District. In 2017, Cotter was honored as a National Wildlife Federation cover crop champion. The July 10 event will showcase the innovative work that Cotter and his family have done to build soil and protect water quality on their farm.

The Cotter farm is diverse, with fields of conventional corn and soybeans, as well as land being transitioned to organic. The operation has beef cattle and sweet corn, and the Cotters experiment with interseeding cover crops into corn, planting organic soybeans into roller-crimped rye and utilizing warm season cover crops. To maximize his soil-building efforts, Cotter grazes beef cattle on cover crops deep into the fall. Cover crops provide many benefits to farmers — they help increase soil-water capacity, reduce erosion, improve soil structure and health, suppress weeds and break pest cycles.

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“I believe to get healthy crops and healthy food you need to start with healthy soils,” Cotter said. “That happens by giving food and shelter to soil life. Cover crops do that. We started putting no-till and strip-till together with cover crops and then we saw soil health benefits skyrocket. My cover crops have helped my reduced tillage practices work better.”

This event is made possible with support from the USDA’s Risk Management Agency.