A Commitment to Conservation: Charles Ledger - Kossuth County, Iowa
Charles Legler, a winner of the 2015 Iowa Farm Environmental Leader Award and nominated for the 2016 Spencer Award and 2017 Conservation Farmer of the Year has made outstanding contributions towards soil conservation and water quality. Chuck’s farm is within one of Iowa’s nutrient reduction target watershed project areas (Prairie Creek Watershed, within the Boone River Watershed) and he has actively participated in the various projects that have be conducted in the watershed.
Chuck hosted a cover crop field day in 2015 that drew dozens of local farmers and landowners that came to learn how he had integrated both cover crops and strip till into his farming operation. He also hosted a similar event for the Boone River Watershed Nutrient Management Initiative in the spring of 2017. He not only has hosted field days for the project but has also made it a point to attend other events in order to continue to learn from others and make himself available to speak with others about his practices. He not only provides the opportunity for others to come to him to learn of his conservation work but he also has been activity encouraging others to participate in the project.
Chuck has always been willing to participate in research and monitoring activities. He volunteered to be part of Iowa Soybean Associations cover crop research trials from 2014 to 2015, as well as their stalk nitrate field testing.
In 2017, he also became a commissioner for the Kossuth SWCD. He mentioned that he ran in order to gain a better understanding of the soil and water quality efforts in his area as well has hoping it would provide a platform for him to further his involvement with those efforts.
Environmental awareness and conservation efforts have always been part of Chuck’s farm management. Starting as far back as 2001 he has worked with the NRCS to improve his conservation efforts. He began with the installation of a windbreak to address a number of resource concerns. In 2003, Chuck put in a wetland to provide water quality benefits and wildlife habitat. On his own, without cost share assistance, he has installed 3 grass waterways and edge of field grass boarders to address water erosion issues. In addition, on about 12 acres that wash out periodically, he has put in alfalfa and boarders to the waterways. He went on to work with the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) to implement air quality enhancement activities and to address concerns for wildlife by retrofitting his watering facility for wildlife to escape and to enhance access for bats and bird species.
Likely Chuck’s most sounding conservation achievement has been his successful incorporation of no-till, strip-till and cover crops into his farming operation. Since the fall of 2014 he has used strip-till on both corn and soybean. In 2015 he tried no-till on 80 acres going into beans. Since 2012 Chuck has used cover crops. In 2013, after just one year of experience using cover crops and on less than a third of his operation, he chose to expand his cover crop usage to his entire operation. The species he has tried are vast pointing to his eager and willingness to try new things to help his land and the environment. Both his reduce till practices as well as his cover crops have help him reduce water and wind erosion and increase soil organic matter, moisture availability for plant use and food and escape cover for wildlife. These practices also reduce the nutrients leaving his farm and in turn improve water quality by increasing soil health and decreasing erosion and nitrate leaching. He has also completed nutrient management to assist in evaluating his efforts on his farm. Chuck has already seen and hopes to see further increased biological activity, in particular earthworms, as a result of using these practices. He sees it leading to cutting fertilizer rates and better infiltration.
Charles has and plans to continue to work with the local water quality initiative project, NRCS and other partners to implement conservation practices, including strip till and cover crops on all of his corn/bean acres in order to continue to improve soil health as well as do his part in reaching the states nutrient reduction goals. He looks forward to continuing to experiment, learn and offer his knowledge and experience to anyone who is interested.