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Roger Wenning has considered many different ways of improving the profitability of his farm. But after researching different possibilities, the Greensburg, Ind., grower quickly learned that adding more acres doesn’t quite pencil out. This left him with a decision to make if he wanted to increase the profitability of his operation.
“I can add acres cheaper vertically than I can horizontally,” says Wenning, who runs a 900-acre corn, soybean, wheat, and hay operation. In other words, it’s easier for him to grow the amount of soil he already has, than it is for him to add soil in acres. In Wenning’s 30-plus years of implementing soil health practices, he says he’s seen his topsoil grow from 6 inches to 10-12 inches.
Beginning with the farm crisis of the 1980s, Wenning, who was all but broke in those days, realized that he had to change his practices. For many years, his corn yields didn’t even eclipse 100 bushels per acre.
Noticing the erosion on his hilly ground, Wenning first began planting winter wheat to help hold the soil in place. After a few seasons, he says “I found that my soil was actually becoming mellower.” Despite the success, he soon switched to annual ryegrass, which was a better fit for his clay soils.
When he began experimenting with no-till back in the ’80s, his big challenge was getting his heavy, clay soils to dry out in the spring. In the ’90s, Wenning started tiling his fields, which enabled him to begin…