Switching to No-Till, Cover Crops in Effort to Improve Watershed

Three years into no-tilling with cover crops, Greg Nettekoven continues to experiment with crop mixes, seeding placement and nutrient management.

Pictured Above: CLOVER COVER. Currently in his third season of no-tilling with cover crops, Greg Nettekoven stands in a field thick with red clover. He’s experimenting with different cover crop mixes and seed placement on his no-till acres

Farmer Greg Nettekoven has been a busy man the past few growing seasons on his Black Creek, Wis., acres.

Not only has he switched half of his 700 acres over to no-till and cover crops since 2015, but he’s taking part in several initiatives designed to improve soil health and decrease phosphorus runoff into an important watershed.

He’s part of the Lower Fox Demonstration Farms Network, which aims to improve water quality in the Great Lakes by reducing phosphorus and sediment from entering Green Bay and Lake Michigan. 

As part of a more encompassing Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, the six demonstration farms involved help showcase leading-edge conservation practices.

In 2014, he also became one of four farms in Northeast Wisconsin to partner with Glacierland RC&D to demonstrate the use of FGD gypsum as an agricultural soil amendment. That project includes taking a 25-acre field, splitting it in half and analyzing the long-term soil health benefits of the applied gypsum.

Although Nettekoven’s involvement in no-tilling with cover crops has been brief, he’s already realized financial savings from reducing inputs — all the while producing comparable yields between his no-till and conservation tillage fields. He estimates that the reduction in tillage passes alone saves him $35 to $40 per acre.

“With my custom work,

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Mark mcneely1

Mark McNeely

Mark McNeely is the former managing editor of No-Till Farmer and Conservation Tillage Guide magazines. His previous experience includes 25 years in industrial engine journalism and marketing. Mark holds an M.A. in journalism from the University of Wisconsin.

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