Fred and Vicki Abels farm about 400 acres just outside Holland, Iowa. Fred grows corn and soybeans, manages hay pastures and has a cow/calf operation with a rotational grazing system. Ten years into no-till and strip-till, Fred insists that expensive, new machinery is not required to add these conservation practices.
“You don’t need to buy a new or used strip-tillage implement to get into strip-till,” he says. “I’ve been using a homemade strip-tillage implement for over 10 years and have it where it does a nice job of preparing a clean, black strip of soil to plant into – and I planted into 200 bushel-an-acre corn residue with a winter rye cover crop.”
In addition to shifting his tillage practices, Fred has added a cereal rye cover crop to his row crop acres, set aside land in the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP), installed grassed waterways and has fenced riparian buffers to keep his cattle away from a creek that runs through his property. Fred has been able to add value to his cereal rye cover crop by harvesting about 20 acres of it to use as feed for his cattle.
When Fred is ready to retire, he hopes to rent his farm out to a young conservation-minded farmer. That, however, won’t happen anytime soon. Fred remains active in the farming and conservation community by serving as a Grundy County Soil and Water Conservation District commissioner and hosting field days like he did with Iowa Learning Farms and PFI in summer of 2017.
Building a Culture of Conservation: "No-till planting is a win-win: less machinery cost, lower fuel and herbicide costs. Strip-till is a way to get N, P and K incorporated so it hopefully stays put and not washes away to the Gulf of Mexico."
Scenes from an ILF/PFI field day at Fred's farm in July 2009. Homemade strip-till equipment was shown at the field day.