Northfield farmer hosts conservation tour
By Janet Kubat Willette
Date Modified: 06/18/2012 2:24 PM
NORTHFIELD, Minn. — Dave Legvold kneeled in the field and began digging in the strip of tilled soil.
He pulled out a germinated seed to show the roughly 30 people gathered around him in the field.
Legvold, a Northfield area farmer, hosted a conservation tour and discussion May 23.
He chauffered visitors to the field in a "hay cadillac" pulled by a John Deere 70, stopping along the way to point out different types of tillage.
He pulled onto a piece of ground he rents where soybeans were no tilled into corn stubble following the tour. Neighbor farmer Mike Peterson demonstrated the Soil Warrior, a rig that does zone tillage and fertilizer application in one pass, as visitors watched and then walked behind to check its work.
The tractor travels at 7.5 to 9 miles per hour while pulling the Soil Warrior, Legvold said. It uses .8 gallons of fuel per acre for the tillage pass and fertilizer application. Smart technology allows the Soil Warrior to match fertilizer application to tractor speed, he said.
The field is in a soybean-corn rotation as dictated by the landowner. He has run the parcel for eight years. Prior to that, it was moldboard plowed in a continuous corn system for 40 years. The landowner decided it was time for a change and sought a new renter.
In a second field, Legvold talked about the necessity of tile to make reduced tillage work on the highly productive soil. He installed tile on the rented piece of ground and was able to secure a long-term rental agreement that should allow him to recoup his costs. It is his second year running the land.
He will do drainage water management, which allows him to vary the water level in the soil, on the 25 acre piece.
Legvold has accessed federal conservation programs for funding to make management changes on land he owns and land he rents.
He has used the Environmental Quality Incentives Program and is a participant in the Conservation Stewardship Program.
The field stops gave a glimpse of the good things that can happen on farm fields with the assistance of public partners, otherwise known as taxpayers, he said.
Legvold also spoke of the importance of research. He worked with Rachel Wieme, a biology and Spanish double major at St. Olaf College in Northfield, to conduct research trials in two of his fields.
Wieme, of Sartell, developed a study to look at the effects of different levels of nitrogen on surface water runoff, soil nutrient levels, plant nutrient levels and yield and economic return.
The replicated trial was set up on two fields with assistance from the Minnesota Department of Agriculture. Four levels of nitrogen were evaluated, Wieme said.
She found applying extra nitrogen just to be safe didn't increase the net return. Instead, it resulted in nitrogen left in the soil and the plant with the potential to leach.