Experimenting With Cover Crops With Joe Rothermel

Farmer Joe Rothermel joins the show to talk about cover crops, strip tillage, and experiments he’s trying on his farm in east central Illinois. Joe is the fifth generation to operate his farm and he is someone who loves new ideas and approaches and is always experimenting with new ways to improve his farm. He is motivated to find ways to lower his inputs while maintaining profitable yields.

“I have an air seeder where I can plant twin rows in between the bean rows. So, then we went in and planted various clover mixes. So, what I’m going to try and do is modify the platform so it pushes down the cover crops in between the bean rows so we can cut the beans and leave the cover crop. We’re just trying to have our cake and eat it too. That’s basically what we’re trying to do. I don’t know if this is going to work. It all depends on the weather, just like anything else in farming, but if we could get 30 bushel beans and 75 pounds of nitrogen I think that’d be kind of cool.”

Joe originally thought he wanted to be a crop duster. He ultimately decided he didn’t quite have the right personality for it, but it led him into a career in the aerospace industry. In the mid 1990’s he came back to the family farm and took over, which is where he has been ever since. At that time his father had been incorporating no-till practices for years and in his retirement, he continued to encourage Joe to pursue soil health with cover crops. Despite some early mistakes, Joe continued these efforts and has found some real success.

“My goal has always been to try and minimize inputs, chemicals, fertilizer, and trying to at least maintain yield. I’m not trying to be a corn yield champion or anything like that. I would like to maintain yields and reduce input costs.”