Increasing Organic Matter Helps Improve Soil Health

South Dakota no-tiller Dan Forgey utilizes high residue crops, livestock grazing to better cycle nutrients and boost organic matter.

With every decision Dan Forgey makes about the farm he manages in central South Dakota, one thing is top of mind.

“All I’m trying to do is promote soil health,” he says. Forgey is the agronomy manager for Cronin Farms in Gettysburg, S.D., a 10,500-acre no-till farm owned by Monty and Mike Cronin. 

Forgey says soil in good health is resilient and able to maintain enough moisture to withstand drought conditions.

“Soil health is difficult to build, hard to maintain and easy to destroy,” he says.

While Forgey regrets the years he spent unintentionally damaging the soil he farmed, he’s grateful to have learned better ways to support soil conservation and health.

“We didn’t understand anything about the concept of soil health” in the 1970s and 1980s, Forgey says. He remembers working the soil 14 times over the course of 4 years and harvesting 3 different crops in that same time period.

“The sad thing was we considered ourselves good farmers at that time,” Forgey says. “I learned how to destroy our soil organic matter. No one was there to tell us we were doing that. It’s sad. There are a lot of people it’s still happening to, so I take what I’m doing to heart if I can help someone in their journey.

“I want to help the younger generation succeed.”

Diverse Crop Rotations are Key

One strategy Forgey has found to be especially helpful in boosting soil health is diversifying his crops.

“We need diversity,” he says. “We…

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Libby Wawzenek

Contributing Writer

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