Leveraging technology and nutrient management

By Dusty Sonnenberg, CCA, Ohio Field Leader, a project of the Ohio Soybean Council and soybean check-off

Thousands of people travel North on Route 23 and West across U.S. Route 6 on their way to Lake Erie, the islands, and Cedar Point every summer, driving right past the farm of Lowell and David Myerholtz. That means thousands of people observing the Myerholtz’s farming practices that have a direct impact on the lake the travelers are headed to visit.

“As we see the boats and campers go by, we know they are headed to Lake Erie, and it keeps it in the front of our mind where our water goes, and it doesn’t take very long to get there,” said Lowell Myerholtz. “If the rain is carrying our nitrogen or phosphorus away into the river and lake, we are hurting ourselves and the lake.”

Lowell and David Myerholtz have been utilizing strip-till for several years as a best management practice on their farm.

“It started off as a tillage tool, but now I call it my nutrient management tool,” said David Myerholtz. “We have multiple soil types in our fields, and the strip makes the conditions very uniform across the field. We prepare the soil in the fall and lay the fertilizer down in a band subsurface. It is amazing what fall strip-till will do to bring consistency and uniformity of those soil types together at planting time in that strip. Our Orthman strip-till machine is a versatile part of our equipment line because we are doing multiple things at the same time with that machine. With the variable soil types we have, and the nature of the machine, I have one chance in the fall to get my strips made, and we variable rate our subsurface fertilizer products in that application.”

Strip-tillage was a learning process for the Myerholtzs.

“When we first started with strip-till, it was just tillage. We were trying to do our tillage in a more efficient manner, and we rented the machine to see if it was going to be a fit for our farm,” David said. “RTK guidance was just becoming more available, and that seemed to compliment the usefulness of the machine, being able to accurately plant directly onto those same strips we made in the fall. After about two years we purchased a strip-till machine and then added the fertilizer application component to it. When we added the fertilizer, it slowed us down and added a few logistic challenges of getting fertilizer to the machine. We started with a blend, and would just vary the amounts of fertilizer, but would just run a uniform blend. As the years went by and we learned more, and the technology came along to improve the economics of variable rating individual products. The big thing we noticed was being able to leverage the equipment and technology investment we had and be able to cut the rates on some of the fertilizer. That helped keep a lot of those fertilizer dollars in our pockets. We really feel the efficiency of banding the fertilizer subsurface has a lot of merit, and keeps it incorporated and not exposed to risk of runoff from the weather.”

The Myerholtz’s have participated in multiple conservation and nutrient stewardship programs over the years.

“For the last six years, we have been a part of a NRCS EQIP program for variable rate subsurface placement of fertilizer, soil sampling, cover crops and nutrient management. We have participated in the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI), and H2Ohio,” David said. “We were already doing many of the practices in H2Ohio, so it makes sense for us to participate in it, and learn some things in some new practices.”

David Myerholtz suggests that farmers evaluate participating in the various programs available by looking at how they may fit with their farm’s objectives.

“The first this is to determine if the program compliments what we are trying to do on our farm,” David said. “We grow through our efficiencies and expand by being more resourceful and stewarding the blessings we have been given. We try to leverage our investments and look at what we have invested in and look at how we can get more output from those.”

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