Scott: Manure and Cover Crops Build for the Future

posted on Tuesday, December 13, 2022

Scott standing in a field.

Recognized for outstanding conservation efforts on his farm and leadership in advancing sustainable agriculture, Iowa Select Farms recognized Eldora farmer Scott Balvanz with the inaugural SelectCare Environmental Award.

Scott and his family grow seed corn, a rotation admittedly harder on the soil rotation because farmers must remove more of the crop residue, therefore removing organic matter.

“To overcome this challenge, first and foremost, we use hog manure to replenish the organic matter and improve resiliency,” said Scott. His farmland has received hog manure from Iowa Select Farms for almost 30 years.

“Hog manure keeps the soil in place and boosts our seed corn yields,” said Scott.

Scott emphasizes that a good soil foundation starts with manure because it offers organic matter and micronutrients that are not available in synthetic fertilizers.

To further rebuild his soil, Scott also implements cover crops. “We’ve consistently used rye for seven years but also went through many previous years experimenting with it.”

Cover crops have been increasingly popular in Iowa. Cover crops like rye are seeded in the late summer or fall to keep a living cover on the landscape after harvesting corn and soybeans. Numerous studies have shown that these plants can help protect soil and water quality, reduce chemical input costs and boost crop yields.

“Like anything, it takes some time to learn how to work with rye,” said Scott. “We’ve been through several years of trial and error, but we’re now seeing the long-term benefits to our soil. I tell any farmer wanting to try a cover crop to start small. Try it on a field or two, then refine the process.”

Not only do Scott and his family use hog manure and cover crops, but they also employ reduced tillage, waterways and terraces on their farm to further protect water and prevent soil loss from wind.

“Scott is a true conservation leader,” said Erica Lain, sustainability manager for Iowa Select Farms. “He’s consistently implemented multiple practices knowing it was better for the soil, his farming operation and the environment.”

Scott says he’s grateful for the longtime partnership with Iowa Select Farms.

“Iowa Select Farms started here in Hardin County, where I have lived my entire life, so I have always known of the great work they do for their communities, farmers and employees,” said Scott. “They provide jobs in the area, which is healthy for our economy.”

Scott says working with the Iowa Select Farms nutrient management team has been very positive. “They are very professional, and whenever I need something from them, they get it for us.”

Scott continues to look for opportunities to invest in his soil’s health for the farm’s future. “It’s the best thing I can do right now for the sake of my children and grandson. Healthy soils make healthy farms, and I want to set them up for success.”