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Soil Sense

Soil Sense

By Tim Hammerich and Abbey Wick, Ph.D.

Welcome to the Soil Sense Podcast, where we believe that building healthier soils is not just a prescription, but rather a pursuit. This journey requires collaboration, curiosity, and communication among farmers, agricultural researchers, agronomists, consultants, and extension. You’re going to hear their stories and discover how and why they’re working together to make sense out of what’s happening in the soil.
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Field Check: Getting Started with Cover Crops

Soil SenseAug 03, 2020

00:00
10:14
Experimenting with Cover Crops with Joe Rothermel

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 Rothermel

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.” - Joe Rothermel


This Week on Soil Sense:

  • Meet East Illinois farmer Joe Rothermel and explore his use of cover crops and strip tillage as well as ongoing experiments he is trying on his farm

  • Discover the process Joe took to incorporate cover crops into his operation and the different techniques he is attempting


Thank you to the Soy Checkoff for sponsoring this Farmers for Soil Health series of the Soil Sense podcast. This show is produced by Dr. Abbey Wick, Dr. Olivia Caillouet, and Tim Hammerich, with support from the United Soybean Board, the University of Missouri Center for Regenerative Agriculture and the Soil Health Institute.

If you are interested in what soil health looks like in practice and on the farm, please subscribe and follow this show on your favorite podcast app, and leave us a rating and review while you’re there. Check out the Farmers for Soil Health website at FarmersForSoilHealth.com

Sep 22, 202325:18
All Soil Health Is Local with Garrett Marsh

All Soil Health Is Local with Garrett Marsh

There are a lot of similarities amongst farmers, but there is no denying the fact that every farm is different. Never is that more apparent than when you learn about a farming operation in a different part of the country than where you’re from. Louisiana farmer Garrett Marsh shares about some of his early experiences with cover crops, why he switched from flooding to row rice and how that fits into his rotation. Garrett shares about how his lifelong interest in soil eventually led him to cover crops. 

“It's worked out really well so far. Like I said, it's cut down on erosion. I hadn't had a whole super lot of weed pressure. So far, it's been working good. I'm kind of wanting to get into some of the other cover crops that cost a little more. Just for the fact of, I want to try to do a little experimenting with the nitrogen savings on it.” - Garrett Marsh

Garrett and his wife farm near Tallulah, Louisiana which is just across the Mississippi River from Vicksburg, MS. His grandfather started out sharecropping in the area, so he is now the third generation of his family to farm that land. They farm around 1700 acres of soybeans, corn, rice, wheat, and cotton. Garrett offers advice to producers considering incorporating soil health practices into their operations. 

“Rather than jumping off into it head first and planting every acre you got in it, you know, I would suggest just kind of starting off slow, a couple of fields and experimenting with them. See how you like it. Cause I mean, it's different for everybody. It really is, you know your neighbor is going to do something different than what you are and you just got to find the little niche that's right for you and there's no doubt that it's going to.” Garrett Marsh


This Week on Soil Sense:

  • Meet Louisiana farmer Garrett Marsh and discover his journey into cover crops

  • Discover the many similarities and differences in farming in different parts of the country


Thank you to the Soy Checkoff for sponsoring this Farmers for Soil Health series of the Soil Sense podcast. This show is produced by Dr. Abbey Wick, Dr. Olivia Caillouet, and Tim Hammerich, with support from the United Soybean Board, the University of Missouri Center for Regenerative Agriculture and the Soil Health Institute.
If you are interested in what soil health looks like in practice and on the farm, please subscribe and follow this show on your favorite podcast app, and leave us a rating and review while you’re there. Check out the Farmers for Soil Health website at
FarmersForSoilHealth.com.

Sep 21, 202328:25
Conservation For Both Ecology and Farm Economics with Laurie Isley

Conservation For Both Ecology and Farm Economics with Laurie Isley

We love to talk about soil conservation practices on this show, but it’s always important to frame it in a realistic context that acknowledges farms are businesses. This means that the right thing for the soil has to also be the right thing for the farm’s profitability. Michigan farmer Laurie Isley shares how she’s embraced new practices at Sunrise Farms, from strip tillage to precision technology to biologicals and beyond on today’s episode of Soil Sense.

“We've also found that we continue to be profitable in the same way that we were before using these other practices. And that's really the point we try and get across to the farmers we talk to. Profitability is not this one and conservation this one. They can be very close together. It's not like they're two ends of a spectrum. Some of it isn't that I'm getting a greater yield. It's just, I have fewer costs related to the t