Soil health believers: Clay County farm family converts to cover crops, no-till

Despite setbacks, the Aakres have expanded practices they started with assistance from the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service. They’ve added more conservation practices on their own, and have come out ahead in the long run.

NRCS District Conservationist Sharon Lean, center, and Jayson Aakre crumbled topsoil from the Aakres’ Clay County sunflower field on June 30, 2021, as Jon Aakre looked on. The Aakres have worked with Lean to fine-tune cover crop seed mixes. Into sunflowers, they have seeded oats, radishes, berseem clover, red clover and turnips. The Aakres said soil health has improved as a result of cover crops and no-till practices. EQIP assistance from NRCS cut the risk of trying those practices, which they have since expanded. On their own, the Aakres also started strip-tilling. Photo Credit: Ann Wessel, BWSR
Natural Resources Conservation Service website: www.nrcs.usda.gov
Once microorganisms take hold, they’ll help to warm the soil in the spring. The Aakres now use no-till or strip-till practices on all of their cropland. Photo Credit: Ann Wessel, BWSR
Jayson Aakre and Jon Aakre look at the condition of the soil in their wheat field June 30, 2021, in Clay County. Because of the drought, they scaled back on seeding cover crops this year. But all of their 500 acres of cropland is either no-tilled or strip-tilled. Photo Credit: Ann Wessel, BWSR
Worm holes and bits of roots are signs of good soil health. The Aakres wanted to lessen soil compaction and improve water infiltration with the soil health practices they’ve implemented. Photo Credit: Ann Wessel, BWSR
A neighbor’s bison graze on 165 acres of rotationally grazed pastureland. The Aakres worked with NRCS to develop the grazing plan. Contributed Photo

Recommended Resources

The Aakres draw from connections they’ve made through NRCS, and stay abreast of soil health research by attending field days, listening to podcasts and reading articles and books. They recommend:

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