Farmers talk conservation, share success and challenges

By Lauren Brey for PPF

Trying a variety of conservation practices and spreading out risk has worked well for dairy farmer Paul Cornette.

Cornette, who owns and operates Cornette Dairy in Kewaunee County, hosted the first “Conservation Conversation” event put on by Peninsula Pride Farms. The casual events are intended to allow farmers to gather for one hour each month to talk about what they’re trying on their farms to improve soil health and protect water quality.

Cornette farms 900 acres and grows all the forages needed for the farm’s dairy cattle, plus grain corn, wheat and straw. He started experimenting with broadcasting cover crops in the summer of 2018 and got more interested in double cropping and planting into green. He experimented with no-till corn last year, which worked well.

Partnering with a neighboring farm, Guilette Farms, owned by Nick and Aaron Guilette, allowed Cornette to try planting into green without modifying his equipment.

“I wasn’t ready to spend the money to modify my planter just to try 20 acres. Now, I’m ready to spend the money to modify my planter and plan to do up to 100 acres of no-till next year,” he said.

Cornette’s plans also include planting into green and planting cover crops this fall and possibly interseeding to facilitate planting into green.

“It takes playing around with it to know where you need to be,” he said.

Nick Guilette has been impressed.

“Planting into green has really opened my eyes,” he said. “The soil health and water quality benefits are real.”

The event focused on sharing experiences with no-till planting corn into a green living crop of alfalfa. The field where the event was held was light, well-drained ground.

“This is probably the most consistent corn field I have,” Cornette said. “This field has taken the weather better than the field we’ve planted conventionally.”

“I think you can get away with less than ideal conditions as long as you get seed in,” Nick Guilette said. “The living roots make a big difference.”

There was also discussion around what practices farms should try. Nathen Nysse, agronomist with Tilth Agronomy, advised that every farm is different, so it is important to discuss goals and needs and have a plan in place for a crop year. However, flexibility is also important to factor in weather, Nysse said.

The group also had a chance to look at the planter the Guilettes had modified.

“That’s what (PPF) is about: highlighting different tools in the toolbox,” Nick said.

PPF’s Conservation Conversations are set for the last Thursday of each month and will be hosted by different member farms. Check for more information.

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