Small Company Arises From Cover Crop Demand in the West Branch of the Floyd River Watershed - Sioux County, Iowa

Josh and Micah Rensink farm with their dad, Mark, in Sioux Center, IA. Josh graduated from Morningside College in Sioux City while Micah graduated from South Dakota State University. After school they both went their own way pursuing careers with Ag companies including Poet and Pioneer. They had always thought about the idea of moving back home to farm. Those ideas quickly become a reality when Mark was injured in a car accident. This prompted the boys to move home and help their dad on the farm while he recovered from his injuries.

The return of Josh and Micah meant they had become the families 5th generation to work the land on their century farm. They are proud to run their farm together as a family, and are always looking for ways to improve their bottom line as well as make improvements to soil health and water quality. As recent examples, they have completed two terrace projects, apply their manure with a low disturbance bar, and experimented with no-till in both corn and beans acres for the first time this year. Josh and Micah were unsure about the corn but said the emergence and stand was just as good as the conventionally tilled part of the field.

One thing they noticed after returning home was that they couldn’t find anyone to custom drill cover crops for them. This spurred the idea of buying an air seeder so they could not only plant their own acres, but also do some custom seeding for other farmers. Their new business, Pivotal Farm Services, provides a great way to earn extra income as well as help get more cover crops on the landscape by offering affordable rates. Their air-seeder is 30 feet wide and can plant in 15 or 7.5 inch rows. For it being their first year, business has been exceptional and they stayed busy all spring. Things don’t look to be slowing down this fall as more and more farmers are buying in to cover crops because of the multiple benefits they provide.

Mark had dabbled a little with cover crops previously by planting 20 acres of radishes, turnips, and oats on his farm. This year, with help from the West Branch of the Floyd River Watershed Project cost-share, they look to expand that number to about 100 acres of a similar mix. The requests they have received from customers have come in a wide variety; from something as simple as oats or rye, a mix of outs and radishes, to wild game food plots including turnips, radishes, and sorghum.

One of the biggest reasons they wanted to switch to no-till and plant more cover crops was to see the impact on water quality and erosion on their farm. They noticed a dramatic difference when transitioning from conventional tillage to no-till. The gulley’s that used to wash bad in the spring were no longer washing due to better soil structure and increased residue on the surface. Instead of that water carrying sediment off their field into a nearby ditch, that water infiltrated into the soil where is could be utilized by the crops. Adding cover crops to this system is only going to accelerate these improvements.

Josh and Micah think if we want to make a big impact in the West Branch of the Floyd River Watershed more people need to try no-till and cover crops. Nitrogen management is also important, so that you give the crop only what it needs when it needs it. If everyone were to try one of these practices in one field, it would really make a big difference in the long run.

Will Myers