In this episode we are back with Mark Huso of Huso Crop Consulting based in Lakota, North Dakota. Mark shares about the value he has found in diversifying crop rotations. Over the years in working with several different farmers, Mark has seen the value both agronomically and economically in adding crops to the rotation, as long as they contribute to what he calls field health: which combines soil health and productivity. It can be difficult, he admits, for some farmers to initially get excited about the idea of considering new crops for the rotation.
“We’ve always had the option. It feels like we’re choosing simplicity over crop rotation…So don’t fix what’s not broken. However, as the guys have included a third crop, a fourth crop, a fifth crop, a sixth crop, a seventh crop. We have two farms that have seven crops on their farms because they’re seeing a benefit to adding different crops in the rotation.” – Mark Huso
Mark has seen firsthand how this diversification can improve field health, water utilization, weed suppression, operational efficiencies, and even help to manage salinity. While barley is known for being a great crop for saline areas, Mark says changing things up to include not only barley but also other crops, can really help.
“It’s taking away the saline areas, you know the corn grew past the soybean ground. The sunflowers are growing past where the corn stocks were. So it’s managing the salinity as we’re seeing that ground improve. Now, if we had just stayed barley soybeans, barley soybeans, barley soybeans. It would be the same or get worse, but because we changed rotations and the roots in the soil are changing, we’re utilizing more water. We’re managing salinity that way by simply changing the crop.” – Mark Huso
We often talk about soil health on this show, but talking about field health is a very intentional distinction in the way that Mark looks at things. Once a farmer heads down this road, just like anything else, it’s not always going to be smooth sailing. Mark says the overall results have been positive, but sometimes logistics can become a challenge.
“A healthy field is a field that raises a great crop. And so that is based on drainage, it’s based on crop rotation and it’s based on the field being weed free, a clean field. And so sometimes my no-till fields are some of the dirtier fields, because they’re tougher to manage. But after a couple years they’re the cleanest fields because they’ve been managed the right way. And so I’m trying to change my soil health more to field health.” – Mark Huso
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Soil Sense Podcast is hosted by Tim Hammerich of the Future of Agriculture Podcast.