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Caleb Akin and Noah Wendt of A&W Farms have been farming together in Cambridge, Iowa, for over 15 years. But it wasn’t until 2015 that they decided to transition to organic farming. One of their first steps was to try planting cover crops. By 2018, they had planted their first organic crop on about 120 acres. Fast forward to present day, and the duo has planted cover crops on all their acres with about 1,500 acres of certified organic.
“The level of tillage we did previously was expensive, slow and hard on the soil,” Akin says. “We were trying to find ways to reduce tillage, which led us to no-tilling soybeans in the rye, and this relay cropping idea.”
Relay cropping involves planting a second crop into an already established crop. Akin and Wendt started doing this after they had been running into issues while double-cropping soybeans and small grains.
“When you’re double cropping this far north, we will often get a frost that kills the soybeans before they are mature,” Akin says. “The idea of relay cropping is getting our soybeans planted before we harvest our small grains and having it set up so we can get a planting machine through our small grain crop.”
Akin and Wendt grow several organic crops on their farm including corn, soybeans, oats, sunflowers, rye and wheat.They are hoping to get to a point where half of their organic rotation is no-till.
Akin says the reason they’ve been no-tilling soybeans rather…