Farms are complex systems, and everyone’s soil health journey is different. For some, one change or new piece of equipment can really be the missing piece that starts bringing everything together. Western New York farmer Jason Swede shares about his crop rotation, how strip tillage has been a game changer for them, his experiments with things like biostrips, how he approaches cover crops, and much more. He shares how these practices including growing a diverse mix of crops has helped him to maintain a profitable business while building healthier soils.
“Looking back at it, I think we were tilling ourselves into a position where we weren’t getting good crops… We felt like we had to have that perfect seedbed. And we’d till the ground and it wasn’t quite right. We’d till it again and then we’d till it again if we had to. And we were putting compaction layers in there that I don’t think our crops could get through. And once we went to strip till, it completely changed everything for us. I think our roots were going deeper, getting into moisture that we weren’t seeing other times of the year, and just everything kind of came together for us.”
Jason grew up on the farm and although he went to school for ag business, he has always loved farming. Jason farms with his father, brother, nephew and son on 4,500 acres. It’s a diversified crop farm where they grow corn, soybeans, wheat, alfalfa and processing vegetables like sweet corn, peas and string beans. They are also partners in a dairy operation and own an alfalfa pelletizing plant. Continuing to improve their biostrip protocols, dialing in their planting green technique and adjusting their fertility is what the future holds for their operation.
“We’re working on a study that is comparing planting green with early burn down with no cover crops. It’s a four-year study that we’re playing around with to see the differences over time. And first year I think we saw a yield drag with planting green, but it was our first time trying it and I think as time goes by, we’re going to learn some things. I’m more interested in seeing what happens with soil health planting green continually for four years to see what the long-term effect is.”