Last year, Discovery Farms Minnesota added two sites that monitor surface and tile on one field at the Curt Trost Farm in Wabasso, MN.
Why the Curt Trost Farm?
Tim Radatz, Discovery Farms Minnesota Research Director explained, “The sites have a lot of potential because Curt is doing cover crops right now. We’d like him to continue to do what he is doing so we can pair those basins. Once they are paired, he could stop using cover crops in one basin but continue the same practices in the other so that we can start to get to the impact of what cover crops mean to both surface runoff and tile drainage in that area.” There is a lot to be learned from these sites, but it will take several years to get the data. In the meantime, we sat down with Curt to learn a little bit more about his operation and why he chose to partner with Discovery Farms.
Location: Wabasso, Redwood County, Minnesota
Farmed Acres: 1,400
Family members involved in the operation: Son-in-laws Justin Morin and Trevor Kukowski who also farm an additional 600 acres
Crops: Corn and soy rotation. Cover crops for the last three years.
Can you tell us a little bit about your farm’s history?
I grew up in town. When I came back home after college I worked for my dad’s construction company. While working on a house for a retired farmer, I was asked if I’d ever thought about farming. Although my initial response was, “I’ve never even driven a tractor” ultimately, the rest is history. Now I farm 1,400 acres with my son-in-laws. Some of the land is my family’s original 1888 homestead that we were recently able to purchase from relatives.
Why did you get involved with Discovery Farms?
I wanted to find out how changing tillage practices and incorporating cover crops into our standard rotations would affect nutrient loss, soil loss, and that sort of thing, on the field with the monitoring sites. I plan to use that and extrapolate that data for the rest of my farm. I just want to know that I’m using best management practices and am getting the most out of my inputs without damaging the environment or losing soil. I’m conscious of that. The way I look at it is if you lose 1/64th of an inch of topsoil a year basically in 400 years you’ll lose all of your topsoil. We just can’t do that. In my opinion the corn belt is so valuable we don’t dare risk depleting it. I really want to know that what we are doing is right and doesn’t affect the long term productivity of the soil.
Curt Trost on cover crops: “We have better cover crop results when we seed the cover crop in soybeans than we do in corn. In soybeans, the soybean leaves drop sooner and expose the cover crops to sunlight. We use an airplane to seed the cover crop. We’ve been moving the seeding date up from August and think the biggest risk is seeding it too late not too early.”
Has anything surprised you so far?
It seems like every time someone from Discovery Farms comes out to the site the conversation always ends up on something where I seem to come away thinking, ‘oh, I’ve never thought about that.’ ‘I’ve already learned some things from people that have a wider range of experience than I have; that is a real big plus for me. It is one I wasn’t expecting but one that has happened and I am grateful for.
Curt Trost Farm is one of two farms with monitoring sites added to Discovery Farms Minnesota in 2016.
This article originally appeared in the latest UW Discovery Farms newsletter. If you would like to read more from the newsletter please click here.