The best farmers know there’s a lot to be learned from each other. Take a look at the lessons Andrew and Jeff Reuschel from Golden, IL are learning on their farm as they test and try cover crops in many different ways and their involvement in the Soil Health Partnership.
Name: Andrew Reuschel and Jeff Reuschel
Location: Golden, Illinois
The Reuschel farm has been in the family for five generations. The family first experimented with cover crops and no-till in the 1970s, then again in the early 1990s. Now, 20 years later, they are returning to cover crops and no-till practices across their farm.
Since 2016, the Reuschels have tried about 30 different cover crop species at various planting dates to reach specific goals. The Reuschels are especially interested in growing cover crop “cocktails,” a mix of varieties that often includes buckwheat, cereal rye, clover, and radishes. The cocktail mix provides diversity that Andrew likes to see in his soil ecosystem.
Cover crops have also been beneficial during extreme weather.
“We noticed much more water infiltration with flash flood rains in 2017,” Andrew said, “and more water retention with drought conditions in 2018. Overall, the farm’s soil tilth and structure are improving.”
“We are predominantly a one-pass tillage in front of corn planting in the spring,” Andrew said. “We have started to try no-till corn again recently.” The Reuschels report a decrease in emergence with no-till corn, and realize they still have more to learnto get the best results from adopting this practice.
Reuschel Farms relies heavily on cover crops to help capture, hold,and recycle nutrients that could potentially be lost outside of the cash crop root zone. In addition to these benefits, Andrew and Jeff have been able to reduce synthetic fertilizer inputs by using cover crops. “We are continually testing to see if we can get by with less,” Andrew said.
Why did you join the Soil Health Partnership?
The father-son team joined in 2017 to gain a better understanding of the effects of cover crops on their farms’ soil. Since using cover crops, they report much less soil erosion, but the Soil Health Partnership will help them understand the impact on their operation through scientifically collected data. The partnership also supports the Reuschels in learning best management practices and agronomic techniques specific for their farming goals.
“We're looking to work with partnership to make those observations tangible and economical,” Andrew said.
For them, the network of farmers serves as a valuable sounding board where they can vet ideas and learn from the experience of others.
“We've been here for five generations,” Andrew said. “We're looking to have another five generations to be on this farm, and so we’re putting our soil first and yield second, and hopefully our soil will come back and repay us, as well as future generations.”