Tillage is Like Surgery

Tillage is like surgery, the more invasive the surgery, the longer it takes the patient (soil structure) to recover

What’s Old is New Again

Read the article from the Iowa Soybean Association below from January 2016.  Our article starts on page 30!


Whole Farm Conservation

September 1, 2015
By LARRY KERSHNER – Farm News news editor ([email protected]) , Farm News

[email protected]

MINBURN – If farmers are going to meet the requirements of the Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy, it’s going to take more than one type of conservation farming method.

That’s the message that Liz Juchens, of Iowa Learning Farms, hoped that a dozen farmers took home with them Aug. 5 from the Craig Fleishman Century Farm in Minburn.

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Fleishman hosted a whole-farm conservation field day sponsored by Iowa Learning Farms.

Fleishman called himself Mr. Stacking Guy, because he stacks his field management practices.

Juchens said Fleishman employs a suite of conservation practices – ridge till, extended crop rotations, corn and soybeans planted side-by-side in 12-row strips, and cover crops.

Fleishman said 2015 has been a tough growing season with Story County measuring 21 inches of rain so far this season, about 7 inches in July alone.

Oats, which are his third rotation crop, are more of a challenge than he expected.

“It’s been so long since oats have been grown on this farm,” he said, “we’re learning to do it all over again.”

The small grain did not want to ripen evenly this year, he said, plus with repeated rain storms up until Aug. 5 he finally cut and swathed his oats the previous day, about three weeks behind the rest of Iowa.

He said he’ll sell the oats to a neighbor as cover crop seed and he’s considering selling some of the straw to another neighbor, “although taking the straw off is kind of defeating the purpose,” he said.

Having oats as a third rotation, Fleishman said, is to get a diverse mix of root masses in the soil and for erosion control during fall and spring rains, when there is no commodity crop standing out there.

Fleishman said he’s been ridge-tilling since 1981.

“It’s the forerunner of strip-till,” he said, “only it’s cheaper and I like the raised seed bed.”

He said he’d ideally like to work with a six-row planter, but it’s time-consuming when one has many acres to plant.

He plants his corn, soybean and oat fields in alternating 12-row strips.

“Primarily,” Fleishman said, “the strips are for conservation, slowing water moving across the top and slowing the cutting of ephemeral gullies.

“But the strips also provide a yield bump for the corn, because there are more outside rows.”

In fact, walking in the field, Rick Cruse, an Iowa State University field agronomist, said that the plants in many of the outside rows were producing two ears.

Fleishman usually drills 2 pounds of cover crop seeds per acre a few weeks before harvesting corn and soybean fields.

Due to the uncertainty of the weather patterns this season, he said he’ll try seeding from the air for the first time.

“I think it’ll turn out that drilling is better,” he said, “but sometimes nature just won’t allow it.”

Erosion notes

Cruse bluntly told farmers that if they follow acceptable erosion levels allowed by federal Natural Resources and Conservation Service guidelines, they will lose more soil than can be regenerated.

He said NRCS finds less than 5 tons of erosion per year is acceptable, however, a field can only regenerate about a half-ton of soil each year.

“And NRCS only measures sheet and rill erosion,” Cruse said. “But 35 to 40 percent of all erosion goes out by ephemeral gullies..”

Sheet erosion is the movement of soil across the surface plane of the field, mostly caused by raindrop splash and shallow flows of water across the surface. Wind can also cause sheet erosion.

Rill erosion occurs when runoff water forms small channels as it concentrates down a slope. They can be any size, but usually about 4 inches deep.

Ephemeral gullies are larger than a rill and usually results from the junction of rills. They appear on a cultivated field during planting and the growing season and erased by cultivation. After an ephemeral gully has been in existence for a few years, the area from which soil has been moved can be 100 feet wide or more.

Tillage moves soil into the ephemeral gully. This loose material is readily available for transport by runoff from the next rain, Cruse said.

He added that NRCS standards measure sheet and rill erosion, but have no calculation for ephemeral gullies.

So a grower can be in federal compliance as for sheet and rill erosion, but still lose additional soil through gullies, for which NRCS has no formula for determining the amount f soil loss.

According to NRCS estimates, as a state Iowa loses an average of 5.4 tons of soil per acre annually.

Cruse said ISU research has determined that cover crops can reduce erosion by 20 to 22 percent, but the best method is to take those areas of ephemeral gullies out of production and into grassed waterways.

– See more at: http://www.farm-news.com/page/content.detail/id/521449/Whole-farm-conservation.html?nav=5005#sthash.pZVdyQhb.dpuf

Whole-farm conservation studied at Iowa Learning Farms field day

Originally printed by The Perry News by Jim Caufield

Craig and Deb Fleishman of rural Minburn welcomed visitors to their farm Wednesday afternoon for an Iowa Learning Farms field day. About 25 people attended the educational event and learned about ways to reduce soil erosion and nutrient loss by integrating various farming practices.

Craig Fleishman, an Iowa Learning Farms farmer partner, explained his method of three-year crop rotation. As the inheritor of a Century farm, Fleishman said he is mindful of the changes he is making at his “home place” and aims to do his part to help with the Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy.

“It’s up to me to carry on the tradition here and to improve the farm,” he said.

Fleishman has a diverse operation. He said he owns some of the land he farms and some he rents, either on a cash-rent or sharecrop basis. One of his farms is organic, he said, but farming without pesticide “takes away an important tool from your toolbox.”

He said he started experimenting with low-input sustainable agriculture (LISA) in 1985. Part of the field day included visiting a field inter-cropped with corn, soybeans and oats and another field recently planted with a mixture of cover crops.

Fleishman said he looks at the whole farm and asks what he can do to improve soil health and water quality while remaining profitable. He compared his LISA fields to ISU Agronomy Professor Matt Liebman’s experimental plots at ISU Marsden Farm, which diversify the corn-soybean crop rotation with red clover, alfalfa and small grains.

According to Liebman’s long-term research findings, input reductions offer farmers both environmental and financial benefits. Diverse rotations improve soil quality, diminish erosion, protect nearby streams from pollution and reduce the risk of creating herbicide-resistant weeds. After nine years, Liebman’s test plots showed the herbicide-related freshwater toxicity associated with the diverse rotations was 200 times lower compared to the conventional system.


Questions followed Fleishman’s remarks, and the discussion quickly exceeded the technical knowledge of at least one audience member. Other speakers included Iowa State University Agronomy Professor Rick Cruse, who discussed his work with the Iowa Daily Erosion Project, and Bob Hartzler, an ISU Extension and Outreach weed specialist, who offered tips and considerations for herbicides and cover crops.

Discussion was very lively between the university agronomists and the well informed audience. Nick Ohde, research and programming assistant with Practical Farmers of Iowa (PFI), one of the event’s sponsors, described the farmer-to-farmer programs offered through PFI and the hands-on events they provide.

Along with PFI, Iowa Learning Farms partners with a number of agencies in organizing its event materials, including the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship (IDALS), the Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR), Iowa State University Extension and Outreach, the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture at Iowa State University, the Iowa Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), the Conservation Districts of Iowa, Iowa Farm Bureau and the Iowa Water Center.

Results of Third Crops from Cardinal Farms Research

Reprinted from Practical Farmer

Adding a third crop is not only better for the environment, on-farm research indicates it is beneficial to the pocketbook as well.  Bringing a third cop into the standard corn-soybean rotation has been shown to increase corn and soybean yields while simultaneously reducing input costs, since less herbicide and fertilizer are required for the three-year rotation.  Longer, diverse rotations reduce weed and disease pressures and, depending on the additional crop, enable farmers to grow their own nitrogen.

Continued here…..


Demonstrating Ridge-Tillage and Cover Crops

Read Craig’s feature from the September 2012 issue of Wallaces Farmer:

Fleishman combats weed resistance with ridge-till in Dallas County

Iowa Learning Farms partner Craig Fleishman farms near Minburn in Dallas County, Iowa, where he grows corn and soybean using primarily ridge-tillage management. Farmers, like Fleishman, who are using ridge-till on their fields plant into elevated field-length ridges that remain in place year-to-year. Ridge-till planters push soil from ridge tops into the row middles. In June, ridges are re-established and weed seedlings are buried with a between-row ridge cultivator.

Fleishman has partnered with Iowa Learning Farms (ILF) since 2009, demonstrating ridge-tillage and now cover crops, too. ILF works with many farmers across the state who are using conservation farming practices while remaining profitable. Our farmers help ILF by sharing their experiences with others to help build a Culture of Conservation. They host field days, speak at workshops, or chat one-on-one with other farmers who are interested in making changes on their own farms.

Fleishman has used ridge-tillage since 1981 because he prefers planting into the elevated seedbed that the ridge-tiller makes. He also likes the weed suppression and controlled wheel traffic. The economics of ridge-till is a plus as well, as Fleishman’s only tillage pass for seedbed preparation is pulling a 12-row ridge cultivator with a mid-sized tractor.  “I believe soil conservation is being sacrificed to ever-increasing larger equipment,” says Craig. He plants corn and soybean in two or three-year rotations and also maintains some acres in a corn-soybean-oat rotation that includes red clover harvested for hay.

Fleishman uses a coulter applicator to deep-band dry phosphorus and potassium fertilizer into ridges on every acre every year, preferably after harvest in the fall.  Nitrogen is split-applied to corn, with about a third of total N applied with the planter as liquid UAN, and in June the remainder is sidedress-applied as anhydrous ammonia with the ridge cultivator. Fleishman finds that corn-on-corn especially responds to the planter-applied liquid UAN.

Craig believes ridge-till’s combination of chemical and mechanical weed control (between-row cultivation) practices minimizes the risk of glyphosate-resistant weed pressure.  “With the ridge-till system I have multiple modes of action to control weeds,” Fleishman notes.  “There is nothing like a well-adjusted ridge cultivator with disk hillers and 16-inch sweeps for taking out Roundup resistant weeds.”  He has encountered waterhemp weed escapes in his un-cultivated headlands where soybean is planted in 15-inch rows.

Craig has also established fall-seeded cover crops following soybean harvest on his farm. He is participating in the cover crop demonstration group through ILF and Practical Farmers of Iowa.

“Good soil stewardship is good business. It does not make economic sense to let soil erode into ditches and waterways, as this robs the precious soil resource from future generations,” stated Fleishman. “I’m very concerned about the fencerow to fencerow monoculture cropping systems being used today. Our soil resources are really being stretched. I believe past soil conservation practices—or lack thereof—should be reflected in the value of a farm when determining sale value.”

Recently he was recognized for the care he takes on his farm. The Fleishman family was one of 67 Iowa farmers who received the first Iowa Farm Environmental Leader Award presented by Governor Branstad at this year’s Iowa State Fair. The award “seeks to recognize the exemplary voluntary actions of farmers that improve or protect the environment and natural resources of our state while also encouraging other farmers to follow in their footsteps by building success upon success” as stated in the ceremony program.  Craig was one of several ILF farmer partners to receive the award. Their stewardship is what Iowa Learning Farms is all about.

Cardinal Farms Recognized as Environmental Farm Leader

Craig Fleishman farms in rural Minburn, Dallas County, raising corn, soybeans and some oats and hay. He calls his century farm “halfway between conventional and organic.”

Soil conservation has been a passion of his for 40 years when he began managing the family farm. Craig started experimenting with ridge-till in 1981 and began no-tilling in 1985. He also uses strip-cropping and has installed grassed waterways, filter strips, and a wetland.

Craig is a member of the Iowa Soybean and Iowa Corn Growers Associations, Dallas County Farm Bureau, Practical Farmers of Iowa and several conservation societies. He has also worked with Agriculture’s Clean Water Alliance (ACWA), taking water samples in the Des Moines River watershed.

Being a farmer partner with ILF takes Craig back to his childhood when an elementary teacher spoke to the class after a severe dust storm about the dangers and costs of soil erosion. He said that the teacher’s words “stuck with me and I have been interested in conservation since.”

Craig and his wife, Deb, have two daughters. When he isn’t farming, Craig can be found outdoors hiking, biking, canoeing. He also enjoys National Public Radio and Iowa Public Television.

Building a Culture of Conservation: “Soil conservation is extremely important to the security of this nation. We need to learn to grow food without sacrificing our soul resource.”

In 2012, the Fleishman family received the Iowa Farm Environmental Leader award
for their conservation practices in place in their farm.


Ridge Till

No production system is more weed resistance proof or nonGMO ready than ridge till

Take a whole-farm approach

Reprinted from www.farmprogress.com by Carol Brown

Craig Fleishman is not a typical Iowa farmer. He grows corn and soybeans, but his approach to running his Dallas County Century Farm is atypical. Throughout his career, this fifth-generation farmer has been concerned with conservation and keeping soil productive on his farm near Minburn. He farms at the homeplace, as well as on rented land; some acres are conventional and some are organic.

In 1981, Fleishman started experimenting with ridge-till, and in 1985 he adopted Low Input Sustainable Agriculture (LISA), which was a  provision in the 1985 Farm Bill. According to USDA’s definition, this system refers to “purchasing few off-farm inputs [usually fertilizers and pesticides], while increasing on-farm inputs [i.e. manures, cover crops and management].” Fleishman has been farming with this theory since then.  He  has  added extended rotations, strip-cropping and structures,  including grassed waterways, filter strips and a wetland.


An Iowa Learning Farms farmer-partner, Craig and his wife, Deb, hosted an ILF field day in August. He wanted to highlight “a whole integrated system of conservation practices.” Field day attendees got to see strip-cropped fields of corn, beans and oats, replicated in 12-row strips.

“In the past, my goal for strip cropping had been erosion control. The strips, combined with ridge till, and now cover crops, really slow down the sheet and gully erosion by interrupting the drainage patterns,” says Fleishman. “As I move forward, erosion control and soil health will remain a  priority,
but I want to push the corn yields by pushing the agronomics.”

Fleishman is researching new ways to plant his corn strips, such as shorter varieties on the outside rows. “This would allow me to run the outside rows at a higher population rate to take advantage of the extra light exposure,” he says. “There seems to be the belief that you have either high yields or conservation. I want to prove that I can have both.”

He has included cover crops in his rotation since 2009 and has a mixture of oats and radishes on some of his acres. Cover crops reduce soil erosion, build soil organic matter and take up nitrogen. Using cover crop mixtures helps with nutrient and water uptake, pest and disease suppression, and soil structure and organic matter. “We need to take care of the soil. It is good business and the right thing to do,” he says.

More fall field days to come

ILF has more field days planned for after harvest. On Sept. 17, a grazing management field day will be held from 5 to 6:30 p.m. at Moore Angus Farms near Melrose in south-central Iowa. Topics include grassland management for grazing, soil health and cost-share programs. It is sponsored by ILF and the Cooper Creek Watershed Project.

ILF field days are a go-to  resource for up-to-date, accurate information on farming practices to aid in soil health and preservation, nutrient management, new practices and more.

Visit the ILF website at extension. iastate.edu/ilf for more resources, including archived webinars, publications, and field day and workshop schedules.

Brown is a communications specialist with Iowa Learning Farms.

Cardinal Farms Hosts ILF Field Day

Originally printed by ISU Extrension by Carol Brown, Liz Juchems

AMES, Iowa – Iowa Learning Farms will host a field day on Wednesday, Aug. 5, from 5:30-7:30 p.m. at the Craig Fleishman farm, rural Minburn. The field day will focus on the idea of integrating several conservation farming practices to help reduce soil erosion and reduce nutrients entering Iowa’s water bodies.

Iowa-Learning_Farms_logo_ovalIowa Learning Farms farmer partner Craig Fleishman has been mindful of the changes he is making on his farm to do his part to help with the Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy. His approach looks at the whole farm and what he can do to improve soil health and water quality while remaining profitable. He will share his approach to conservation farming at the field day. Attendees will visit a field that has been inter-cropped with corn, soybeans and oats, as well as a field recently planted with a mixture of cover crops.

Also speaking at the field day will be Rick Cruse, Iowa State University agronomy professor. Cruse has been working with the Iowa Daily Erosion Project and will discuss the concern of soil erosion in Iowa. Bob Hartzler, an ISU Extension and Outreach weed specialist, will offer tips and considerations for herbicides and cover crops.

The field day will be at the Fleishman farm, 17794 Quinlan Ave., Minburn. Coming from Granger: take F31 west out of town for 2.5 miles; turn north on R22 (T Ave.) and go one mile; turn west onto 180th Street and go 2.25 miles; turn right onto Quinlan Ave. From Minburn: go north on Highway 169 for one mile, turn east onto 180th Street; go 2.75 miles and turn north onto Quinlan Ave. The farmstead is on the east side of the road.

After listening to the speakers, attendees can enjoy a complimentary supper, prepared by Saddles BBQ in Madrid. The field day is free and open to the public, but an RSVP is requested by July 27. Contact Iowa Learning Farms to reserve a place for the meal: phone 515-294-5429, or email: [email protected].