Whenever you attend an event at Roger Wenning's farm near Greensburg, whether it's an indoor program on soil health, an outdoor cover crop root dig or plot harvest for twin row corn, you're likely going to see at least one grandchild, sometimes with mom in tow, sometimes with dad, often with granddad, before you leave. Wenning was recently announced as the Northeast Regional winner in the Conservation legacy program facilitated by the American Soybean Association. He obviously believes his biggest legacy will be his children and grandchildren – Wenning hopes to instill the conservation ethic in them.
Wenning's soils are rolling and subject to erosion, so he has concentrated on using tillage methods that leave residue. He has also devoted a large amount of time over the past several years to researching cover crops, and was one of the first to discover and point out the tremendous difference in ryegrass varieties. Those not suited to Indiana were killed during the winter in his own plots on his farm. He insisted that if cover crops were going to work, seed suppliers would have to provide varieties for different regions, and not dump the same variety of seed on unsuspecting growers. Since then, companies have come a long way toward determining which varieties of various cover crops do best when seeded in Indiana's climate. That climate can change from northern Indiana to southern Indiana, and some varieties do better at some locations than others.
What impressed Wenning most about cover crops is their ability to root deep into the soil. Even annual ryegrass with eight to nine inches of top growth can produce roots down three to four feet deep, he says. He's confident because it's been confirmed by experts during root digs on his own farm.
Take a close look at the picture and meet his favorite, long-lasting legacy.