“We used to grow corn, beans, hay, dairy and all that, and right now, we're down to two crops.
We do one year of rye and one year of corn, and it's the most incredible farming system we've ever seen.”
— Gary Zimmer, Grower, Spring Green, Wis.
In this episode of the Cover Crop Strategies podcast, brought to you by SOURCE® from Sound Agriculture, listen to Gary Zimmer giving a presentation at his farm in Spring Green, Wis. Zimmer, who many refer to as the “father of biological farming,” talks about his farmer origin story and why rye is so important in keeping his soil covered.
Stay tuned for part 2 of this episode coming soon.
- Planting Corn Into a Cereal Rye Cover Crop
- [Podcast] Understanding Allelopathy with Cereal Rye When Planting Corn
- How Rye and Oat Cover Crops Affect Corn Development
- A Tale of Two Watersheds: Cover Crops vs. No Cover Crops
The Cover Crop Strategies podcast series is brought to you by SOURCE®️ by Sound Agriculture.
SOURCE®️ from Sound Agriculture is a soil activator that gives crops access to a more efficient source of nitrogen and phosphorus. A foliar application of SOURCE provides 25 pounds of nitrogen & phosphorus per acre and enhances micronutrient uptake by stimulating beneficial microbes, and its performance is supported by a cash-back guarantee. Learn more at www.sound.ag.
Full TranscriptMackane Vogel:
Welcome to the Cover Crop Strategies podcast brought to you by SOURCE from Sound Agriculture. I'm Mackane Vogel Assistant Editor at Cover Crop Strategies. In this episode, listen to Gary Zimmer giving a presentation at his farm in Spring Green, Wisconsin. Zimmer, who many refer to as the father of biological farming, talks about his farmer origin story and why rye is so important in keeping his soil covered.Gary Zimmer:
I'm Gary Zimmer. And I don't know if anybody's familiar with what I've been involved with. We moved here in 1979. I'm a dairy nutritionist by training, and I got introduced to soils teaching at a technical college in Minnesota. I started consulting, and then I wanted to have a farm of my own because I couldn't get the products I wanted to fix the soil. Midwestern BioAg is a company I started with a couple other people. I think we need the credit for taking dairy nutrition back to the soils. And to say, "What you put on your land's going to affect the feed and it's going to affect the cows." Well, that got into almost everything else you could possibly do and so that's what really started it.
And so then we moved here in 1979 because I wanted to have a farm of my own. I wanted to be able to do some trials and demonstrations, and farmers weren't ... They were busy farming their farm and I couldn't get them to collect data, I couldn't get them to do things I wanted to do so we bought a farm. It was just a hobby farm. And then I bought a research farm in 1991. And then my son was 13 years old and he started working on the farm. When he was 16 years old the farm came up for sale across the road and he said, "I want to buy the farm and I want to milk cows." And I said, "Wow."
I forced him to go to college. I forced him to do all those things which he didn't really want to do. He's been farming, he's now 45 years old. He's been farming for almost 30 years and he's only 45 years old. I was teaching at the tech school in Minnesota and I realized that what happened is ... When he bought the first farm I had to cosign on the first one. But he owns all those farms. And my daughter owns a couple of farms. I don't own them because I saw families all fall apart. If he's going to do all the work he needs to own the farm, first of all. And then he's got his skin in the game so it was quite fortunate.
So in the beginning then we were dairy farms. And we had 300 cows, and we actually had 600 acres. Well, then he was getting burned out and having a hard time getting help, and we had to depend upon all this help. He never married, he married all these farms. So he was 24/7 on the farms. He was struggling mentally, I thought, and so I said, "Look, life's too short you don't need to do this anymore." So he sold the farm ... The cows to my daughter and she cut the herd down to 150, and then we started cash cropping. We started here in the '90s on Taliesin. Because I was here and we got involved in trying to transition Taliesin to an organic. It was going to be a cooking school there at one time with Odessa Piper and some other people. Carla Wright were going to do this cooking school here. So I got involved with Richard de Wild at Harmony Valley Farms in transitioning it to organic.
Well, that all fell apart but we kept on the farm. And so then I got on the board at Taliesin to try to promote agritourism. I was nine years on the board and I never ... My job was to restore Midway. And if you notice, nothing's been done to Midway yet. I was promised that the machine shed's going to be built this year. It was a struggle away because they're a architectural school. I got on the board. Well, then this farm came up for sale. I wanted to put conservation ... Easements on it. It had 20 people involved. It was only on the market for 24 hours and I bought it. And I put conservation easements on it. There's some beautiful building sites on this farm that hopefully will never get built.
And so then Patrick, my wife's grandnephew, his father bought my business the first round with a bunch of investors. And so he moved in here, a Los Angeles kid, and got onto the farm. And so then some of the issues came about. So things kept transitioning. We used to be corn, beans, hay, and dairy and all that and right now we're down to two crops. We do one year rye and one year corn, and it's the most incredible farming system we've ever seen. I got about three other people doing it now. Margaret deserves credit for starting sustainable ag. That was her big project if I remember right. Did I get that right?Margaret:
There's a lot of people engaged in sustainable ag. I've been involved in it for my career.Gary Zimmer:
Can't take credit for the thing.Gary Zimmer:
I think if you bring up her name from back 30 years ago it was her thing that really drove sustainable ag. But see, we didn't understand what sustainable was. See now we got to regenerate it before we can sustain it. And I called the farming biological because I wanted the people to focus on life in the soil. Regenerative has a really a bag ... It depends who you talk to what it means. I was just over in Europe, at a big conference in Poland, they don't want to use the word regenerative. You can't believe what's happening in the world. The food companies are putting pressure on the farmers. Not the small farmers. One farm was 200,000 acres and the other one was 30,000 acres of vegetables. And oh my gosh, the pressure from Nestlé's and all these companies, they're going to have to become regenerative.
Now, if they started out [inaudible 00:05:03] plowing and destroying the land, any improvement they make gives them a feather in their hat. There'll be a guy coming to our training we're doing here with acres in August from England and he's a biologist. It's unbelievable what they do under 30,000 acres. They got to clean it up. Consumers want clean air, clean water, and clean food. They don't necessarily need to be organic but they better have ... They better clean up their act. It was an unbelievable conference. It's a first international conference on bioreaction, they called it, because they want farmers to take action. So the word regenerative I understand. See, the word sustainable, I can honestly say that we spent a lot of time on this 1,500 acres, my son ... My family farms, of fixing land, growing cover crops, remineralizing it.
Now the Savanna Institute bought a farm just north of Spring Green. My son farms alone with a little part-time help on 1,500 acres in a 50-mile circle. We farm from Highland to north of Spring Green. If you got in the car and went and visit all our farms you'll put on 50 miles. He's all alone. We're going to be combining rye there. So that land and Spring Green we're transitioning to organic. It's 100 acres we took on. So the first thing we do is take a soil test and we remineralize it. We spend $1,000 an acre fixing the land before we farm it organically. Now, everybody said, "Oh my gosh, why don't we farm 1,500 acres and that's another 100 there." So $100,000 we'll have invested before we make one nickel off the farm. So now we're combining rye over there that goes to cover our seed cost, that goes to ... It's not organic. And the next year it'll be organic but it's not fixed yet, it'll probably takes quite a while to fix soil so I'd say five years minimum, it depends on how aggressive you want to get at it.
Anyway. This farming system is, first of all, low labor-intensive. We no longer buy any fertilizer once it's fixed and so now we are sustainable. And so it's all cover crops. And it's one year rye cover crops and one year corn. Although I own Midwestern BioAg, I've sold out now ... All those years about remineralizing soils. You could drive for higher yields. I could be folder feeding, I could put starter fertilizers on, we do nothing. The only minerals that get put back on the land come through compost. Most of the corn is sold to Phil's organic eggs in Spring Green, and we get all the manure back. The manure is even organic that comes on this farm. And then we compost that. Because if you look at our farms we've got gypsum wheat got scattered all of our farms and we're pretty convinced it came through manure because we had no other inputs. Now everything is composted.
And what we do for composting is really interesting. We make hay off of our pastures. You see, the organic dairy farm we had to graze the cows and so we had to have 150 acres. They had to graze 150 days rather. So we had 100 acres of creek bottom pasture. I said organic is not a nutrient management plant, by the way, folks. Because we grazed them on that pasture all the time. Fed them in the barn and grazed them ... What do you think happened to the nutrient level of the pastures? Because the cows are out there all the time and so now I've got all those minerals on that pasture. And we got about 40 acres that we actually cut, bale, bring it back and that's the base to make our compost along with the chicken manure.
I got some samples of last year's compost. We don't have it made yet this year because it's in windrows, it's in piles. My son, when the cultivating is done, when the riot is harvested he'll start turning it and we spread it in September. We don't put any nutrients on bare ground, that's all spread in the fall on a green growing cover crop. So we're going to take a walk, it's about a half-mile hike, and hopefully, you're all up for that. And we'll look at our crops. I want to show you the rye. I want to show you how we farm, I want to show you some of the special things.
So we'll take you through the farming system. I'll wait until you get here. This was rye last year with cover crops. So then we let the cover crops grow and then I'll show you how we take care of it. Now, it's really interesting. So we take our tillage to a shallow incorporate residue. If I could rename my business, which I named 40 years ago Midwestern BioAg, it would be named based on soil health and soil fertility. Soil health has certain guidelines like no crust on top of the soil, variety of plants, all these different kinds of things. People don't understand what soil fertility is. We dump fertilizer on the land and we call that fertility. No, fertility is the exchange of nutrients and it got to be in a carbon biological cycle.
I said the dumbest idea man ever came up, put all the nutrients and solution and dump on the land, and then wonder how they got in our water. We just put them in solution for crying out loud. Why don't you hook them to a carbon source? Why don't you get them in a cover crop? Why don't you get them with some [inaudible 00:09:51]? Why don't you get them your compost pile? That's why all them minerals didn't go into the compost pile because they dump a mineral out here. Nutrient use efficiency is a new topic in agriculture. Nutrient use we're talking about phosphorus anywhere from five to 30% usable that the farmer buys. And that's why they're talking about regenerating. You go to a farm that's been dumping all that commercial fertilizer for years, they got a reserve out here. Now tap into that reserve. You can't go to a rundown piece of land and expect to regenerate it by not putting on minerals.
So this is really interesting. We got big buffalo colonies. You see the weeds, they're right down the middle of the road. That's another free green manure crop. My son will be through here with the big old buffalo cultivator here as soon as It dries off. It was a little bit wet. Anyway. This will be able to get cleaned up. But see, then he'll go through this. It's almost getting a little too big to go through. The drought really hurt it here, it got really set back. Normally we take two tillage passes with our ... In the springtime we take down the cover crop, we got a big LEMKEN disc. And then we follow that with this KUHN Krause intercept there. So that would normally be our plan.
There's so many residues on top that we got row cleaners on our planter and we plant in these furrows. And then we come along and rotary hoe it twice. Now most has only got rotary hoed once because it's not raining and there's nothing out here. And then he makes two passes with the buffalo. This year he only made one. But you see where the shovel went through the middle of the row. Everybody talks about your shovels pruning off of corn roots. You notice they didn't hit next to the row, they got a big old sweep, one big sweep that's 20-some inches wide. But the points into the ground, and when that went through it must've smeared it below and got the weeds to grow in the middle. That he'll be able to clean up right now. But see, he wasn't even going to cultivate it until it started to rain. And all of a sudden that turned green within the last week. There was nothing in there before that so why would he run through and cultivate it?
I tell people, that's a free green manure crop you're looking at and there's a plant diversity out there. See, us organic guys don't need to buy cocktail mixes of cover crops, we grew our own without buying them. Lambsquarters, pigweeds, foxtail. You name it we got it. Now we go after the giant ragweed and we go after the Jimsonweed. I pulled out some of the Jimsonweed along the end here. This'll clean up pretty good.
Our farm, by the way, normally averages about 175 bushel corn. I'm not saying that's the greatest in the country, we don't have the greatest land. We've had some yields measured over 300 bushel on our better land. I was a project on corn varieties numbers years ago with the University of Wisconsin. But normally 175 bushel corn and then we do about 35 to 40 bushel rye. And so I was really involved with the project. I said, "You want to feed the world" ... You know Walter Goldstein, you know Walter, and his variety of corn he's been trying to breed for 25 years. I planted some a couple years ago. And I took my rye and his corn and we made tortillas.
See this farm produces about seven million pounds of corn and about two million pounds of rye, and that's the proportion we made tortillas. So this farm, this 1500 acres, can feed every man, woman, and child in Wisconsin for one week a quarter pound of tortillas a day. Now we want to feed the world. Not only that, it's very sustainable, very nutritious, high quality. Now add your veggies and things to it and you've got a diet. And there's a no input system, very low input kind of a system.
Anyway. Actually, now, I'm involved with Taliesin and we're supposed to be making whiskey at Wiltshire. But see, they're always begging for money and I tell everybody, "I put all my money into agriculture, I'm not willing to put my money into restoration." But after being on the board for 10 years I finally talked to ... After four months arguing with lawyers ... They were worried about getting sued If someone got sick on the liquor. If you get sick drinking liquor you're going to blame overconsumption you're not going to blame toxins for Christ's sake. So finally we got them to give approval. So Wiltshire jumped into the game and they're going to work with us, we're going to make 10 barrels of whiskey.
Taliesin has a fundraiser, and all the money is supposed to go to the restoration of Midway which I've been trying to get done for 10 years. But anyway. Wiltshire's are going to make the liquor at ... Just covering some of their costs. I'm donating the rye. A $70 bottle of whiskey, how much money do you think the farmer gets out for the rye? 50 cents.Speaker 5:
No. That's less than I thought.Gary Zimmer:
The cork is more expensive than the rye that went to make the whiskey. So I said to Wiltshire, "Don't you dare send me a bill, you can have the rye." At 50 cents a bottle, I said, "I don't" ... And then there's also bourbon mix, there'll be some corn involved with it. That's the project I got going over there to promote some of the markets we have. So distilleries are one big market, flour, and then cover crops is probably where most of our seed gets to go.Speaker 5:
I'll volunteer to be a taster.Gary Zimmer:
I don't drink hard liquor very well. So I went up there and they brought out the bottles, I felt obligated. I did get it down, I did get it down. I don't drink hard liquor very well. But anyway. Their rye whiskey's been doing all right so that's a nice project.Mackane Vogel:
Will come back to the episode in a moment. But first I'd like to thank our sponsor, SOURCE from Sound Agriculture, for supporting today's podcast. If you want to make your fertilizer plan more efficient, source it. SOURCE from Sound Agriculture optimizes the amount of crop nutrition supplied by the microbes in your soil providing 25 pounds of nitrogen and phosphorus per acre. It's cost-effective and easy to use. Just throw it in the tank and spray in seeds. If you want to unlock your crop's potential and increase ROI, there's only one answer, source it. Learn more at sound.ag. And now let's get back to the episode.Gary Zimmer:
Now our corn grain mostly goes to chickens so we don't have to deal with it. Now the food company over here that wants to buy all this two million pounds of rye flour, they sent us the specs, and they molt a lot of that. So we were concerned because rye has an issue with germination, and they might want 95% germination. I didn't even ask about germination. I've sent ours in every year for specs on ergot, and we never see any. Vomitoxins, all those kinds of things. We've never had trouble getting it passed.
Sandy from Purple Cow, he farms over here by Oconomowoc, and him ... He used to farm 400 acres now he's farming 2,000. I said, "Sandy, there's one thing for sure no more seven crops, you're going to get it down to two crops if you're farming alone. You can't do seven crops all by yourself on 2,000 acres, I'd like to see you pull it off." That's why my son can pull this off with just two crops. I think we can meet their standards. So Sandy's going to have some and we're going to have some here. I grew a variety.
It's a really interesting story. I saved my own seed back every year, every year, every year. Wouldn't you think I'd develop a variety that would like my soil and our farming? No, it went the other way. And finally, the germination went down and got poor and poor every year. And then I realized, what did my grandpa do? He went and bought some hybrid oats or some kind of oats every year, he bought a variety of oats, and he'd plant a few acres out and save that for seed. He never saved his own seed forever. A couple of years then he'd go back and buy new stock. So it's really interesting. So now we got RYMAN and Haslet varieties.
I was over in Poland, you see, they ... Dickel rye comes from Poland. Well, they got like 10 different varieties over there. And actually, they're doing research on cattle over there and they're doing research of the health benefits of rye. See, when they took the antibiotics out of the hog diets in Denmark they put rye in the diet and they no longer need antibiotics.Speaker 6:
Oh, interesting.Gary Zimmer:
So it's got some health benefits. I tell people, if you get cancer and you go to Gerson clinic in Mexico, stage four cancer, 100,000 Americans have been there, they're going to put you on a real strict diet. The only flour you're going to get is rye flour. And I've been asking why. And they make another product out of the pollen from rye called Prosta-Rye for your prostate health. Rye has not been altered in any way, it's still an old tough stuff and nothing can compete against it. Sandy planted the 16th of January over at Oconomowoc. Now I'll show you our planning system.Speaker 6:
Wow. [inaudible 00:17:42].Gary Zimmer:
Right. The 16th of January this year when it was wet, and he's all alone on his 2000 acres. He takes a fertilizer buggy and he bulk spreads and then he shallow worked it in. And he planted it so thick that now it's lodging. It all came up and it still did really well. We plant it here in November. But we've changing our farming system all the time trying to get it more efficient. We used to work the land after corn harvest, we got shredder heads on the combine to shred the stalks. We'd work it lightly because we're going to cultivate, it'll be hilled a little bit. Level it out just lightly. And then we used to drill rye in. Well, that's all gone now. There's an air machine behind our tractor, and we really like it. So it blows your seat out so it's not in rows anymore.
I had an intern last summer or last spring and I said to him, "Why is my clover in rows?" It's not the clover that was in rows it's the rye that was in rows and the clover couldn't compete against the rye so it got to have its own row because it couldn't grow in the rye rows. So now our rye is scattered out. Because if you plant real thick they're going to have finer stems as they get taller. And that's why the rolled crimp people plant 175 pounds of rye seed breaker. We plant about 75 with that air machine. We got some fields where you're setting equipment up. If you're going over toward our farm on highway 130 you'll notice a field of rye that's going down. That's because Nick was setting up the equipment that got planted way too heavy. If you get up to a hundred and some pounds of rye you're going ... It'll be flat because they get real tall and spindly. So we're trying to get us one that grows shorter, and stockier, and all those kinds of things.
Anyway. It's not a pretty crop this year but didn't get any rain. So we'll go down there and stop at the rye. You can have blueberries on the way back. You got to get your exercise first. Isn't that amazing? The first years at Savanna, there's not a weed in the field, there's not a weed grows. And it's been so many chemicals out there and now we've limed it ... We'll put some more lime on it this year, and about three years that farm will be solid damn weeds. They've been waiting for their chance.
Now if we walk along here you're going to stop and take a look and say, "This was" ... See, the little rye, it puts a pretty nice head on it. Now what's really happening after several years ... One year of soil building and clover, and the next year corn. Our nitrogen levels are building up in our soil. And as our nitrogen levels build up in our soil our rye starts doing better all the time. This was planted, like I said, 75 pounds an acres. If you look at it, it's not in a row, it's just bulk spread and put in there with our ... We follow the tillage tool behind our air seater. We're more interested in the underseed. Because as dry as it was we thought all the clover and things would die but that's not what happened.
Now the field that our home farm that we irrigate, the cover crop was neck and neck with the rye. See, the trouble is we didn't get this rye planted until the end of November so it didn't grow much last fall. Because we can combine faster, they can haul the grain away. So my son will be combining the corn, and the end of the field will sit the air seeder tillage tool. So the same day it's combined, it can worked and the rye will be planted. They'll be scattered out over time but we'll be planting the first part of November instead of the end of November. We want to get it about that tall in the fall so then when you frost seed the rye is ahead of the clover. If it was raining all the time the clover would be neck and neck with this rye.Speaker 6:
Also, for erosion.Gary Zimmer:
Yes, yes. That's right. Now that gets tilled up and then this gets erosion sake and getting a cover crop on the ground. Now it comes up but there wasn't much there until spring when it really took off. We've never had rye fail. Planted too late, we were, because of the weather. So now we like the way it's transitioning and we'll get that fall done. Then in the first week in March, the end of February he'll go out and frost seed. He's got a big grain thing on the back of his side-by-side. He can seed 25 acres in the morning, before it gets muddy, on frozen ground going 25 miles an hour with that frost seeder spinning it on. That thing holds about 3000 pounds. Across the fields he goes with it. Anyway, you can get a lot of seed.
We used to do a blend, a four-way blend. I had red clover, white clover, crimson clover, and alfalfa. The crimson clover never did really well. Red clover dominates. And now this year we took the alfalfa out because that didn't compete very well, we put sweet clover in. Now the sweet clover is the problem. I want a big tap root, I want a rhizome root so I got different root systems. That's why I [inaudible 00:21:53] with three different clovers because they got different rooting systems. And the sweet clover really, really took off. And I'm a little nervous about that baby. But that's going to have a big tap root system.
We do run shallow incorporating residues, but if it's a wet, muddy year we also got inline rippers. We got a ripper that just cuts slats in the ground and picks the soil back up if we compact it. Now we try to stay everything on 12-row equipment. So everything is all-wheel track, all 30 feet wide with everything except the combines are not. And the tillage tools when we get done with this and the ... After it's combined we'll just leave it until about the end of August and then it'll get flail mowed down, everything stays, and then another crop will grow.
Now, some years we didn't flail mow we just let it grow, and the clover got this big and then it killed itself. So now we flail mow. So we get the clovers here now. In some years it's going to be like this. Most years. This year in the moisture it's not. And so then we get that growth plus the rye straw, and then we get the growth that takes place by the end of August, there'll be another crop this tall. And then come winter it'll be this tall going into winter. And the next spring when it gets this tall we take it down. So we don't plant Mammoth red clover we plant freedom in high expensive four-cut red clovers. We want four cuttings out of that red clover in that one year. And then you can't do that with Mammoth as a two-cut system. And so we got freedom and other better genetics.
The question was, how did rye perform in a dry year? At our home farm, if you drive by, we got 100 acres under irrigation. Savanna you shoot north to Spring Green, that's 100 acres under irrigation. And it doesn't get the corners. You cannot drive by our farm and pick out where we watered and where we didn't. The only thing you can see difference is the cover crop. The clover is much bigger where we water. But the rye, oh, this stuff is tough. And that's why in Poland, and that's why places where they didn't have any money on their sandy soil, that's why they did rye instead of wheat. Wheat would be all dead and dying up as dry as we were. Rye, we can't even see the difference where we pump the water, it's a tough old buzzard.
Our whole thing is right now, we got this rye revival. If we get 35 bushel of rye, 30 to 40 bushel ryes, is all we really care for. Now guys have said, "Oh, why don't you plant it thicker and get 50 bushel?" I said, "For $10 a bushel more and I don't even have a market. 10 bushel at $10 a bushel is $100 an acre. You want me to harvest this, till it all up, and plant the cover crop? Well, I already got one. Why would I want to do extra tillage?" There's not enough money in rye to do that so we're going to keep our planting rates really low because we want that unders seeding until I get a better market. Even then, our rye yields are going up because of our carryover of nitrogen. Our nitrogen levels are building higher and higher and higher.
I showed pictures last year at my winter meetings where after three years of doing this you can see right to the line the rye the next year is greener and taller than where we didn't have the cover crops. And that's following corn. So the corn should've sucked out quite a bit of [inaudible 00:24:41]. We're building up our nitrogen levels in our soil.
As we walk along you can look in there. You'll see our cover crop's not pretty but it's there. And now that we got rain I think it's even there in Spring Green on the sandy soil. The cover crops survive fairly well. That's why we don't want this to lodge and kill our cover crop because then we've got to go do something about it. We'll just take a regular grain drill with single disc ... Double disc openers rather. If it lodges or there's bad spots we'll just take a drill and go out there and fill those in. And we'll normally do that in August. And we'll normally take forge oats, peas, and radish in the grain drill. If, and only if, the cover crop is not there. We aren't going to leave it without a cover crop.
Michael Dolan took some of the hay from back here, that's where we're going to walk next. I did a measurement of how much carbon and how many nutrients we took off the soil. If I charge you for the minerals that you hauled away, and I charge you for the carbon you hauled away, you can't afford my hay or straw. Well, you need livestock. I said, "No, we're feeding" ... "All this goes to our soil livestock." And that's the other word, when we get back there, we're going to talk about. The rye straw in here is a soil-building complex carbon. The clover is your fertilizer.
I'm a dairy and nutrition guy. If you're going to grow cover crops you need to put one more word into your vocabulary, that's called digestibility. My hairy vetch was this big, and I had all those nitrogen credits, and my crop looks terrible. And I said, "You might have a lot of nitrogen credit but it's not digestible. Count and see how much milk you get." If you'd have taken it down when it was this tall you'd have fertilizer, it's highly digestible. So you've got to manage your cover crop. If you just want to build soil carbon you'd let it get mature but we want to grow a crop.
This straw all will be gone by next year, it's all digested down. We'll flail mold that later. We are going to bale a little bit at home, we have in the past. We graze some at home and we also bailed up the straw, but that's next to the farm where all the cattle are, we can get manure back out there. Neither one of those made the crop any better the next year. I think it's a horse apiece. I think you're trading off. If you took this off and you had manure that you could bring back on it, you're doing a trade-off a little bit. And like I said, we grazed it in the fall and got milk off it. And you got to look at the dollars. That might be feasible if you had your livestock and things out. You got to realize we're in this 50-mile circle and there's no way we could have cattle here, even with collars on them, even with collars on them.Speaker 7:
Gary, how much manure are you putting on?Gary Zimmer:
The compost on one ton to the acre except at the home farm where all the cattle where we're down to 1,000 pounds an acre. And now on the Savanna Institute farm north of town, that'll be two to three tons. We're still trying to build the numbers. I tested my compost last year and the numbers came back so perfect I'm afraid to test it again. It was really high-quality compost. They said, "We turn it with a payloader. We got big windrows out here, and we put the chicken manure in it, and we turn it with a payloader." And we might get some liquid from anaerobic digesters because that's got a lot of biology in it. Because I can make fertilizer in Indiana on the back of an anaerobic digester. And so it's got a lot of benefits coming out of anaerobic digester, that manure. So we might use that to if we need a liquid source for our compost.Speaker 8:
Gary, why do you plant rye instead of wheat?Gary Zimmer:
The last day of planting wheat is when? The first week in October. When did we plant this? The end of November. Now, I realize that. So somebody said, "What about Triticale?" Well, that's the middle of October is your last planting date. We're not going to be harvested until November. It's the only crop left is the one you're looking at. After corn this is it, this is it. After soybeans, you might be able to sneak in wheat or something. That's why we're a two-farm system, this is the only one that works.Mackane Vogel:
Big thanks to Gary Zimmer for today's presentation. The full transcript of the episode will be available at covercropstrategies.com/podcasts. Don't forget to watch out for part two of this presentation coming soon. Many thanks to our sponsor SOURCE from Sound Agriculture for helping to make this Cover Crop podcast series possible. And from all of us here at Cover Crop Strategies, I'm Mackane Vogel, thanks for listening, and have a great day.