Darrell Steele | Washington County

Darrell Steele from Washington has been farming in the West Fork Crooked Creek Watershed for nearly 35 years. He evolved his father’s conservation techniques from the 70’s to become one of the many successful no-till producers in Washington County. As an advocate for the preservation of land, he owes his achievements to other local conservation-minded growers that have aided in his success.

“When we first started no-tilling, there were many challenges. Wet soils, sidewall compaction, and managing previous year’s crop residue were a few of those challenges.” Darrell and his father both agreed that the only way some of their hilly ground could be farmed was by no-till and cover crops.

This will be the 4th year that Darrell has fall drilled 100% of his row-crop ground. He has seen some beneficial things happen with the use of a good cover crop. “It is believed that a rye cover crop prior to corn will affect the yields.” Darrell does not see this to be a concern after talking with enough area farmers and seeing it for himself. “Since corn and rye are both grasses, they tend to compete for moisture and key components for growing corn.” Darrell and many other Washington County farmers have been annually rotating corn and soybeans with no yield drag using a rye cover crop. “There is a trick to it. You have to manage the timing and placement of nutrients, become very familiar with the carbon cycle, and use the correct equipment.”

Almost all the equipment on the Steele farm has been modified with precision guidance to aid their success in the no-till industry. “The tractors steer themselves, fertilizers are placed where and when they are needed, the planter knows when to shut off units to eliminate overlapping, and the sprayer knows not to spray our waterways.”

“This modern day technology has evolved the way of farming forever.” By using these advanced methods, Darrell is ensuring the continuation of profitable farming while enhancing water quality and building soil quality. With these tactics of conservation farming, the Washington Soil & Water Conservation District is pleased to introduce Darrell Steele as a true Clean Water Iowa success story.