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Field days to boost farm profits, water quality

Curt Arens Jeff Steffen of Constance, Neb. trying out his roller crimper on standing green rye planted to soybeans
BEST PRACTICES: Jeff Steffen of Constance, Neb., tries out his roller crimper on standing green rye planted to soybeans. This is one of the practices being tested on Steffen’s farm that will be discussed June 28 at the Bow Creek Watershed field day.
Two watersheds in northeast Nebraska are hosting events in late June.

A pair of watersheds in northeast Nebraska will be hosting field days in late June to promote best management practices that can help producers boost yields, improve soil health and improve water quality within those watersheds.

The Bow Creek Watershed project encompasses 392,574 acres in portions of Cedar, Dixon and Knox counties, with Bow Creek being added as a priority area based on Nebraska Department of Environment and Energy Basin Rotation water-quality testing in 2016.

Research projects in the basin are ongoing, looking at best management farming practices that can improve water quality. A summer Bow Creek field day, hosted by the Lewis and Clark Natural Resources District, is scheduled for 9 a.m. June 28 at the Jeff and Jolene Steffen farm near Constance, Neb., southeast of Crofton.

Boosting profits on the Bow

Farm profitability using alternative crop management systems will be the focus of this year’s event.

The featured speakers are Rick Clark and Loran Steinlage. Clark has increased farm profits by using plants to boost soil fertility and control weeds and pests. Using plants to replace commercial fertilizer and pest control chemicals has presented the opportunity to transition all of his acres to organic production.

This integrated system requires an understanding of ecosystem principles, and the use of new tools and technologies. He has worked with other farmers on his journey, learning from them and collaborating on innovative practices, watershed coordinator Becky Ravenkamp says.

One of those farmers is Steinlage. With his ability to modify equipment to meet the needs of his conservation management system, Steinlage has gained valuable knowledge of both equipment and crop responses, Ravenkamp says. This led him to join Dawn Equipment as their infield practical field engineer, testing and advising on innovative products such as roller crimpers and row mowers.

At the field day, both farmers will discuss the tools and technologies they are implementing on their farms, talk about the economic return of those changes, and share practical application of them on any farm from tens of acres to thousands of acres, conventional to organic, or somewhere in between.

Local producers Jeff Steffen and Scott Heinemann will share their experiences using innovative crop management systems in northeast Nebraska.

All producers are welcome at this event, but registration for lunch is requested. Register at lcnrd.nebraska.gov. Producers in the Bow Creek Watershed Project and Lewis and Clark NRD service area will have their $25 registration fee waived by using the promo code, Bowcreek.

Contact Ravenkamp at [email protected], or call 402-254-6758 for more information or to register for the event.

Best practices along Bazile Creek

Comprised of land located within the Lewis and Clark, Lower Elkhorn, Lower Niobrara and Upper Elkhorn NRDs across 756 square miles in Antelope, Knox and Pierce counties, the Bazile Creek Groundwater Management Area was started by local producers and the NRDs to address rising groundwater nitrate levels in domestic wells and area communities.

A summer field day is set for June 30 at a University of Nebraska demonstration farm site within the BGMA. Among the practices being studied, farmers are looking at more diverse cropping rotations, improved soil health, nitrogen inhibitors and other practices that have the potential to reduce nitrogen leaching into the groundwater, while maintaining productivity.

The field day runs from 1:30 to 7 p.m., with registration beginning at 1 p.m. An evening meal is provided. The field day will have sessions and demonstrations relating to variable-rate irrigation, led by Nebraska Extension irrigated cropping systems educators Steve Melvin and Nate Dorsey.

Javed Iqbal, Nebraska Extension nutrient management and water quality specialist, will discuss nitrogen fertilizer deficiency and measuring nitrate leaching. Soil infiltration and variability will be covered by Nebraska NRCS soil health specialist Aaron Hird, while University of Nebraska graduate assistant Xiaochen Dong will talk about subsoil carbon injection and remediation.

From the Highway 14/59 junction west of Creighton, the field site is located 3 miles south on Highway 14, then 1 mile west on 869 Road, and one-half mile south on 523 Avenue. Registration needs to be made by June 23 to the Lower Elkhorn NRD at 402-371-7313.

Learn more by contacting BGMA Nebraska Extension educator Jeremy Milander at [email protected], or visit bgma.nebraska.gov.

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