Brookfield, Wis. — Three growers have been honored for their efficient and effective use of applied fertilizer in their no-till systems. Named as the 13th class of Responsible Nutrient Management Practitioners, the no-tillers were honored before a virtual audience during the 29th annual National No-Tillage Conference.

At the conference, Jim Hershey, Elizabethtown, Pa.; Joshua Hiemstra, Brandon, Wis.; and Jason Wiegel, South Bend, Wis., each shared the practices they utilize on their farms in an effort to use only necessary amounts of applied fertilizer and ensure it’s used by crops rather than lost to the environment.

Last year, all nominees for the 13th annual program answered a survey about their farming operations through an online application. Their responses were graded by a panel of fertilizer experts.

The three farmers with the highest scores were awarded the honor, along with complimentary conference registration from No-Till Farmer. AgroLiquid and No-Till Farmer are co-sponsors of the Responsible Nutrient Management Practitioners Program.

Following are snapshots of fertilizer application practices utilized by these no-tillers:

    Jim Hershey

  • Jim Hershey no-tills about 600 acres of corn, soybeans and wheat in Elizabethtown, Pa. In addition, the 600-acre multi-generational operation finishes 1.7 million organic broiler chickens along with 6,500 head of hogs and is considered a Confind Anumal Feeding Operation (CAFO). To manage the waste from the animals they must adhere to Pennsylvania’s ACT 38 Nutrient Management Plan requirements, he says. Manure applications are based on phosphorus (P) levels in the soil, and because poultry manure is high in P, they export all broiler manure. Hershey says they're able to meet most of their nutrient needs with the hog manure. Through the use of cover crops and no-till practices, commercial fertilizers has been greatly reduced. Today, depending on the weather, Hershey applies hog manure to the living crop in either spring or fall, applying between 2,500 and 9,000 gallons per acre to supply around 100 pounds of nitrogen (N) per acre. He also applies a 6-24-6 starter in-furrow at a rate of 5 gallons per acre with an additional 40 units of 28% UAN dribbled on top of the furrow with the planter. He uses a Pre-Sidedress Soil Nitrate Test (PSNT) to establish a base rate for sidedressed N application. Other macro and micronutrients are also applied judiciously and based on soil test results.
  • Joshua Hiemstra

  • Joshua Hiemstra no-tills 790 acres in Fond du Lac County, Wis. He doesn’t utilize a set crop rotation but does rely heavily on silage and high-quality legumes, with 3 out of 4 acres of corn devoted to silage. Following corn, the acres are rotated to soybeans and followed by winter wheat, with a portion of acres planted to alfalfa. On corn, Hiemstra uses two products: Pro-Germinator (9-24-3) in furrow with 1 quart of chelated zinc, at a rate of 2-3 gallons per acre and 7 gallons of High NRG-N (27-0-0-1) applied 2 inches deep and ¾ of an inch from the seed. On fields with fall-applied manure, he says he usually needs to apply an additional 15 gallons of High NRG-N or 75 pounds of nitrogen. Stalk nitrate tests help him evaluate nitrogen during the season. Hiemstra began monitoring high salt fertilizer use several years ago when the dairy was experiencing reproductive issues in the cow herd. He learned that the issues were a result of high chloride levels in the forage. Upon making that discover, he says he began limiting potash to one application in the spring, and in the summer he switched to foliar feeding the alfalfa. Alfalfa foliar applications are applied after the second cutting and consist of 2 gallons each of Pro-Germinator (9-24-3) and Sure-K (2-1-6), along with liquid boron.
  • Jason Wiegel

  • Jason Wiegel operates the 650-acre Wiegel Riverside Dairy in Lafayette County, Wis., with his dad, Jack, and uncle, Larry, where they raise 220 head of milking cows, along with about 200-220 replacement heifers and finish some steers. Wiegel says they surface-apply all of their manure, covering all 650 acres at a lower rate of about 5,000-8,000 gallons per acre instead of spreading it only on the silage ground at a heavy rate, like they used to. In addition, they always apply it on a living crop, whether that be alfalfa or a rye cover crop. Wiegel says cover crops gradually came to play an important role on their farm after they began adopting them in 2008. Wiegel says that he tries to no-till a five-way mix of wheat, rye, clover, radish and turnips into corn silage acres in late August through early September. However, if he hasn’t seeded the cover crop by September 10, he will plant straight rye instead. Because they they take four aggressive cuttings of alfalfa and a fair amount of corn silage, they 500 pounds of potash annually to build levels and maintain soil health. The application is split-applied at a rate of 250 pounds after the first crop, with the remainder applied after the fourth crop.

Get more details about these farmers’ nutrient management programs and farming operations here

Past Winners

Below is a list of past winners.

2020 Recipients

  • Karl Dirks, Mount Joy, Pa.
  • Lowell King, Loma, Colo.
  • Don Villwock, Edwardsport, Ind.

2019 Recipients

  • Robby Bevis, Lonoke, Ark.
  • Mike Brocksmith, Vincennes, Ind.
  • Jerry Peery, Clinton, Ky.

2018 Recipients

  • Jake Kaderly, Monticello, Wis.
  • Stuart Lawrence, Rosetown, Sask.
  • Richard Lyons, Harvel, Ill.

2017 Recipients

  • Jason Carter, Eastover, S.C.
  • Mike Taylor, Helena, Ark.
  • Mike Werling, Decatur, Ind.

2016 Recipients

  • Jerry and Nancy Ackermann, Lakefield, Minn.
  • John Kemmeren, Bainbridge, N.Y.
  • Eric Odberg, Genesee, Idaho

2015 Recipients

  • Joe Breker, Havana, N.D.
  • Jim Glover, Waterford, Pa.
  • Wye Angus Farm, Queenstown, Md.

2014 Recipients

  • B&B Partners, Gibbon, Neb.
  • Dean Glenney, Dunnville, Ontario
  • Roger Wenning, Greensburg, Ind.

2013 Recipients

  • Joel Armistead, Adairville, Ky.
  • John Niemeyer, Cortland, Neb.
  • H. Grant Troop, Oxford, Pa.

2012 Recipients

  • Bob Bottens, Cambridge, Ill.
  • Donn Branton, Le Roy, N.Y.
  • David Sutherland, Leroy, Kan.

2011 Recipients

  • Jordan Bennett, Hermiston, Ore.
  • Larry Bonnell, Pittsford, Mich.
  • Jeff Garman, Colfax, Ill.

2010 Recipients

  • Allen Dean, Bryan, Ohio
  • Jack Maloney, Brownsburg, Ind.
  • Davis, Ryan and Greg Bell of Cornerstone Partnership in Des Arc, Ark.

2009 Recipients

  • David Brandt, Carroll, Ohio
  • Mike Starkey of Brownsburg, Ind.
  • Ed and Dan Wilkinson of Getty Acres Farm in Gettysburg, Pa.