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IDEAS & ADVICE

A VOICE FOR SOIL HEALTH

Bill Nelson

 

Bill Nelson began to rebuild his Lake County farm in 1986 with 4-crop rotations, no-till and cover crops, soon after he bought it. He's regenerated the soils on the farm, and says they are now in the maintenance stage.

Ideas and Advice for NOLOs

Get the soil back in shape...

"I bought the farm in 1984. My folks had rented it out for 15 years before I bought it. I started doing some soil testing. The ground was compacted, it was tight. I started off with 1.6% organic matter and I decided I had to do something to get the soil back in shape…and to cut down on the wind and water erosion."

Earthworms are an indicator...

"My father was a real conservationist when it came to farming. He had a dairy herd, ran everything through the livestock, we had a feedlot, chickens, pigs, the whole route and he really, really, knew farming. He always kept track of the earthworms. His scale was five to seven earthworms in a pitchfork of soil and you’re on track. That means the bacteria and everything is working like it should."

Pass land along...

"If the landlord has children and he wants to pass his land along, he’s going to have to look down the road at the benefit for next generation, and promote the ideas of the cover crop and building organic matter. Dad’s goal was for the next generation, and that’s what I’m doing. My kids will end up with it. They’ve got good professions and I doubt they will ever farm, but they definitely know what to do."

Do some research...

"If you want to have a tenant switch to no-till, talk to the tenant to see if he’s willing to try it for a period of time. He’s going to probably do some research on it, the benefits and savings and things like that, and probably work with the NRCS. Contact people who are in soil health and talk to them, too."