Designing cropping systems for healthier soils, improved biodiversity, and more profit

February 28, 2023

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This session has held as part of the field crops track during the 2023 MI Ag Ideas to Grow With virtual conference. This virtual conference held February 27-March 10, 2023, is a two-week program encompassing many aspects of the agricultural industry and offering a full array of educational sessions for farmers and homeowners interested in food production and other agricultural endeavors. Sessions were recorded and can be found online at

Video Transcript

So just to show an example of this project, you can see it's a big slide, but all of our fields at KBS, and we have this LTAR experiment that I'm going to describe at the plot scale, which is the small blocks in the middle. They're about 0.6 acres each for each plot. And then we have fields all surrounding where we have replicated fields as well that are 12 to 35 acres in size. So we can implement these things at scale that I'm going to talk about. So the core experiment that we're working on, the research that's happening in LTAR is the acronym for long-term agroecosystem research. There's a core experiment that happens at every site across the country. And it is the, each side is tasked with comparing businesses, usual farming in that region, to aspirational farming. And aspirational is defined differently at every site as well as business as usual. And so we've been working over the last couple of years to get feedback from all the people I mentioned to determine what is business as usual and what is aspirational. What does it mean for us too? Together, a cropping system that performs productively is profitable and contributes to water quality. And what we came up with, here's a picture of roughly what we came up with on the bottom, business as usual is primarily based on survey data, we're a diverse state, but the majority of our land in agriculture is still in corn and soybeans. About half of the acres are in a corn soybean rotation in Michigan, and many others have other crops in rotation. But if we were to pick one system that's most common, corn and soybeans is what it is. And that includes traditional tillage and no cover crops, not manure, just basic, basic corn and soybeans. Aspirational, however, was defined by our group of stakeholders as having crop diversity. No tillage or minimum tillage. Continuous living cover on the ground. Cover crops in-between cash crops, precision agricultural integration. So using data from our fields to make decisions that vary in space and time and livestock integration. People want to see crops and livestock mixed together. There's definitely advantages to that. And then being adaptive, so not being so rigid that we can't move and make decisions that vary from one year to another. I'll describe these in a bit more detail. So businesses, usual, corn, soybeans, conventional tillage, fertilizers and so forth kinda looks like this. You're going to see a few diagrams. Starting with soybeans in year one, we have bare soil leading to soybean crop and then usually fall tillage is pretty common, especially in some parts of our state. The next year, it looks very similar. We have corn growing starting in April or May, going to the end of the year and then fall tillage again going back to soybeans. Now, there are advantages to this system. There's no crops like corn in terms of production, and no crops like soybeans in terms of protein and oil production, they are incredibly productive and using the combination of of tillage and commercial fertilizers. And sometimes irrigation results in very high productivity and oftentimes profitable situations for farmers, which is, which is great, we need to sustain that productivity. Those systems are also simple. They adapt well to technology, that equipment that continues to get bigger. Profitability can be variable and is often subsidized through crop insurance and other payments. We know prices fluctuate both on the cost of inputs and the price of the crops. Generally, these systems lead to poor soil health that are pretty dependent on fertilizers and sometimes irrigation. We're dependent on synthetic inputs. We don't have any biodiversity and the systems really, it's just corn and soybeans we're generally emitting greenhouse gases. And we're often losing nutrients to our water and sometimes soil and sediments to our water as well. So there are risks and trade-offs to this highly productive system. We think about aspirational. Here's what our group of stakeholders defined as what are the ultimate goals of aspirational farming systems. So what do we want our farms look like in 30 years? Well, we want them to be productive, but we want them to be efficient, which means we want to keep producing, but we want to use less fertilizers and less chemicals for every bushel of yield. We want and need them to mitigate greenhouse gases, which is usually a win-win for farmers. If you're storing carbon in your soil, you're improving soil health and you're mitigating carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. And using less fertilizer usually results in less nitrous oxide emissions. So we're more efficient on our fertilizers. We have less greenhouse gas emissions. We want to have more biodiversity opportunities on our farm. And whether that be for wildlife or insects or butterflies or, or that will help our crops. Some crops require pollination or benefit from pollination. So we want to have those benefits in there. We want to be resilient to climate. So we all know the stories of the really wet periods in the spring and fall that have come and gone over the last decade or so, we wanna be able to grow crops in the face of uncertain whether patterns and climate changes, we need soil health to improve. We want to make sure that we're contributing to water quality, both groundwater and surface water. And farmers should be profitable and they should be happy and communities should be happy as well. So all of those, all those outcomes are really our desired goal. And I don't know that many people would argue these are goals, but I guess the question is, can we hit all these targets and what are the trade-offs like if we're going to go for biodiversity conservation, are we going to lose something else? So in order to try to design an aspirational system that attempts to meet these outcomes. Here's what we came up with, crop diversity and we went up as high as a five phase rotation over five years to have that many different crops. As I go through these things, realize that we're not, we're not advocating for this particular or these particular ideas as like the only solution, right? It was kind of a mix of what type of system are we putting in the ground? What space do we have? What do we think is possible potentially on farms and so forth. So this is how we defined it, but we realized that many farmers may use bits and pieces of this and have other design elements to try to achieve these outcomes if that's what they're shooting for, hey, Brook. We know we went nutrients circularity. We want to be able to recycle nutrients onsite  if we can. We want to integrate animals to help with that nutrient circulation and also provide opportunities to market alternative crops. So e.g. if we want to grow a cover crop and harvest some value from that cover crop as a forage we can when we have livestock, but we can't if we don't have livestock, we want to keep the ground covered with something green all the time. Whether that be cover crops or perennial crops. We want to stop farming areas that are proven to be low yielding and therefore unprofitable. And we want to plant Prairie on those areas. We don't want to let them grow to trees. We want to plant prairie. And I'll talk a little bit more about that later. We're not going to till. In our crop systems we don't need to till. We have quite a few years of data, decades of data that show consistent yield increases from no till over conventional tilled systems. After about five to ten years of transition, we realize that not all crops can be managed no till. We have crops in Michigan that require digging them out of the ground. Sugar beets, potatoes and so forth and other crops that like dry beans that are just really difficult to do no till, although you can do it. But we realized that no till may not be feasible everywhere, but it can be for other crops were growing. We want to be adaptive so that we can respond to climate and weather variability. And we want to use technology to make best use of our inputs and our equipment. Brooke, can you hear me now? Yes. Okay. Sorry. I've been trying to get this question too. you for  a little while. You have canola in your aspirational rotation and the nearest crushed facility is long distance from a lot of parts of Michigan. Are there any plans to have crush, a crush slash oil seed facility in Southeast Michigan? So I don't know the answer to that. Currently the option to sell canola in Michigan is through ADM and they are compiling it in Michigan and then sending it to Windsor where it's being crushed and processed. I don't know if there are plans by ADM or other companies to build something in Michigan? I would guess that maybe it has to do with how much, how many farmers they can get to grow canola and how well it does over time. But I don't know the answer to that. But it sure would be nice because canola is an interesting and valuable crop to have in our toolbox. Absolutely. Thank you. Sorry, I guess you have to yell louder or my voice. I think I was having mic issues. Okay. So this is the crop rotation that a smaller group of us defined for our aspirational system, having corn, soybeans, we want to keep those in. We need those. We like those crops. You could substitute with sorghum or dry beans if you wanted to. Then winter cereal, winter canola, and then a perennial forage in our rotation. And we wanted the perennial forage at least early on in this transition period. Because we know that that's one of the best ways to build soil health the fastest is to have a diverse perennials, like likely that have a lot of legumes in them. So that's where we're starting with. And the five-year rotation kinda looks like this with all the components. And I'm going to just show you these pictures first and then we're going to go real pictures and I'll describe it in detail. We have perennial forage that we're going to apply, some compost or dry manure or to. And then we will kill that and plant corn right into it. And we've been actually working on planting green, the corn into this perennial forage mixture. We intercede cover crops into the corn, and then we add some more cover crops after the corn is harvested. In that first year, we might have an opportunity for grazing cattle on the corn residue plus cover crops. If, if cattle are in the system. The next year, we have that cover crop mix, primarily rye going into soybeans, where we plant right into the cover crop. Whether we roll it down or not is adaptive year by year, we harvest those beans and then we go right into wheat. And there's some evidence that incorporating radishes with wheat has advantages for the wheat crop because the radishes will winter kill. The wheat gets started. Radishes winter kill. We have winter wheat going into the next year. One option would be to frost seed clover into the wheat. But we're actually not gonna do that early on because we want to get to canola in the fall. So we're skipping that. But some farmers might use that clover Frosty, Frosty to clover cover crop, which is a valuable option. If you're gonna go back into another, like a corn after the wheat. But instead we're going to grow a summer cover crop immediately after the wheat is harvested for about two months. This would be sorghum, Sudan, sun hemp, millet, sunflowers maybe buckwheat. You can grow a lot of that in two months between July and September. We're going to harvest that for forage. Mid September, probably mechanically, but you could graze it if you wanted to. But because we're trying to go to canola that fall, we're going to kill it. We're gonna we're gonna get it off. We're going to plant canola in the fall, no till right into that bare soil, maybe with a nurse crop if we can figure out a, an option for that. Grows over the winter. It's harvested about the same time as wheat. And then after the canola, we go right into our perennial forage portion of the rotation. Basically, it gets established in that fall after the canola. We may have a fall harvest. We may not. The forage has now it has clover, alfalfa, trickery, ryegrass. Although you could argue for some other species in there, but we wanted it to be legume heavy. Then after the forage crop where we either mow it or graze it for forage for a year, we go back into the corn rotation again. So that'll be year  six essentially. So that's the, that's the rotation that we're living in and we're trying to make work. So what I'm gonna do now is just go through all of like pictures and sort of observations of all these points and the rotation. Because obviously this isn't, this is a complex system. We're trying to keep something growing all the time, planting, planting green, all these different aspects. And I'm going to show you what some of this looks like. I'll show you some observations of successes, but also some challenges that we're running up against too, and we're trying to figure out how to mitigate. This may or may not fit in here, maybe you're going to talk about something related to this later. But we had a question out of what happened to quote unquote black magic roller crimper and possible use applications with your current research projects. The roller crimper so. Okay, there's two ways that we are using the roller crimper still. One is in this system is a not an exclusively organic system. We're trying to use tools that we can to minimize herbicides and synthetic inputs if possible, we're not relying solely on organic methods. And so likely we will use the roller crimper or some sort of roller device at least once in the rotation ahead of soybeans. But we'll probably also use an herbicide to help terminate it. And I've got a couple of pictures of what this looks like. Now. We haven't done a lot of recent research in organic systems with roller crimpers. But we have done some in the past and I know there are farmers that have tried it. And the lesson is that you're going to rely on roller crimping  and cover crops in an organic system, things kinda have to be perfect. You have to have a really great lush cover crop. And you have to have moisture at the right time and you have to have a pretty depleted weed seed bank for the crops to be, that mulch layer to be effective enough to really hold back the weeds from the crops so it can be done. But most of the time when we've tried it, it doesn't quite work out perfectly. And so there's definitely advantages to it and it's a work in progress, but It's a really, really tough one to get just right if you're gonna do it organic. Hope that answers the question. Okay, let's start here just kinda going back to this, this crop rotation, we're applying composted manure. This is usually pen pack, dairy manure, but it could be manure or it could be anything, right. We're adding this in the fall or spring to our perennial, perennial forage crop that's going to be planted to corn the next spring. There's a picture I think, of late fall. We're using a lot of no-till manure application. And we try to do it when there's a plant growing in the field so that we can retain some of those nutrients and infiltrate some of the water as best as possible. And we find that it really breaks down pretty fast. You do lose some of the nitrogen to ammonia loss when you apply any manure on the surface and don't incorporate it. But our observation is that the the benefit still outweighs the cost of if we had incorporated it into the, into the soil through tillage. So the next spring, this is just red clover cover crop in this field that you can see us planting into. But it would look similar if you had a red clover and alfalfa based crop planting corn in this picture, this was last year. What we really did in this field is we planted radishes in 30 inch rows into the clover in the summer and then we came back with the planter and planted corn right into those radish rows. You can't see the radish anymore because it's winter killed and the clover is kind of coming, growing over the top of it, but a little scary to plant corn right into living red clover. Um, you got to kill it somehow. So we use herbicides to spray it a few days after planting. And there were some issues with Army worms and escapes of the clover growing back, which required another application of a herbicide plus insecticide to manage that challenge. But we didn't get killed. And we, we, turns out that after a slow start for the corn, it  actually had an outstanding yields. This is a yield map from that field where you can, this is bushels per acre for the corn. You can see a lot of the field over 20% of the field, or 20% of the field is over 250 bushels per acre. And this is a non irrigated field. So really good yields for our dry land systems. Somewhat surprising to us that we could do that well with planting into something that we consider kinda tough for corn, but were really high on this idea and working on the best ways to actually get the cover crop killed so that it's not a, it doesn't require us to have an extra herbicide application in the process. So definitely, definitely something we're going to push forward with and trying to fine-tune that system. As we're going through the corn year. We're also trying to use a lot of precision Ag, whether its figuring out how much nitrogen we need to apply when we have this heavy legume crop ahead of our corn. Varying those rates over the, over the field, putting the nitrogen where it needs it. You can see in this slide,  the map yield map shows that were our fields are really variable. We have some areas that are oh, 150 bushels per acre and some areas that are 250 bushels per acre. And they're really close, so we really need to manage that. And we're trying to learn how best we can use drones to predict nitrogen rates or give us a good idea of nitrogen status. And it's really hard. Yield maps are probably the most effective tool that we have. But sometimes you can use satellite images or drones to help supplement to try to do variable rate nitrogen applications. But we're learning as we go about the best way to do that. And if it's worth it to try to fly the fields and get that extra image right before you put the nitrogen on. We're also just trying to figure out how much nitrogen we can credit this clover cover, the clover alfalfa crop that's in the system or just a clover cover crop. And I think the evidence suggests that it depends. It depends on how much biomass you have. It depends on how long you've been managing your system for soil health improvement. Because the soil is going to supply some nitrogen and the cover crop is going to supply some. And so that answer is going to change over time. And it's going to change a little bit every year. And so we need to be a little bit adaptive in how much nitrogen fertilizer we supplement when we have these systems using a lot of biological inputs. So also in the corn, typically we're adding fertilizer at side dress time. That's what we're doing here, but we also do cover crop interceding. In many cases. There are challenges with cover crop interceding both with getting it established because it can be dry in June when you're trying to do this. herbicides can be tricky to work around when you're trying to control weeds, but also trying to put in cover crops. Some years we've had outstanding success. Here's a picture of some ryegrass and dwarf essex rape that just looks outstanding in 30-inch rows. Oftentimes it has to do with how much the corn grows. If the corn doesn't get incredibly tall, the cover crop has a better chance, especially if it gets established with rain in the summer. We've done some work with even widening the rows of corn to look at. If we grow corn in 60-inch rows, how much better does the cover crop do? But also how much worse does the corn do? And not surprisingly, the cover crop does better. And the corn does worse. When we widen the rows. Corn yields, we saw declines of anywhere from about 12 to 40% in corn yields when we compared wide rows, too narrow rows, normal 30-inch rows of corn. So something to keep in mind as we're thinking about doing these unique aspects to improve the cover crop is we probably are going to lose some corn yield. Is this coming through the video, Jenna? Yes. Okay. So just a quick snapshot. This is kinda what we see. Oftentimes more often, we've got a few radishes. We've got some clover in there, but it's, it's kinda sparse, right? We've got some cover crop and honestly I don't mind that because we're going to come back, stop this. We're going to come back in the fall and overseed our grass cover crops in some cases. There we go. So I'm not putting all of our eggs in that early interseeding basket, but trying to get some crops out there, some cover crops that will occupy the space. But then I really want to have a good grass cover crop in and they're going in after corn and going into soybeans. And so we've been aerial seeding or just drilling in cereal rye later in the fall. Aerial seeding around October, Labor Day, drilling in, or just broadcasting right after harvest in October and November. This is a picture of what you might expect if you aerial seed right in around Labor Day in corn. It's there, it's not big. Your heart, you drive over it, you smash residue on it, but it'll grow back by the next year. The next year, okay. Keeping moving along. The next year of this rotation we're getting out of corn and we're going into soybeans. And we've done quite a bit of work with planting green into soybeans. And most of the time it works pretty well. This is a picture where we didn't roll the rye down. Whereas other treatments we've looked at rolling the rye down and then planting into it or planting and then rolling later. Generally, soybeans are pretty tough. They can handle these pretty tough conditions with a cover crop growing next to them. In a very dry year, you might have issues with the soybeans not coming up right away, which can be a challenging, can be yield limiting. But if there's moisture there, they generally get off to a good start. If we leave the rye growing for a week or two after that can provide some more challenges for the soybeans. So we're going to plan on killing at about the same time as planting and terminating it and then getting this residue that can, residue that can be there. When the soybeans are up and growing. This particular strip here is a strip that we didn't kill the Rye until a couple of weeks after the soybeans were planted. And you can see they're a little bit slower going part of that was because it was so dry that year that they didn't come up right away. And we did see some yield losses in this particular strip compared to where we killed the rye earlier. In a strip where we rolled down the rye. It really, it looks beautiful and keep in mind, we did have an herbicide in this too. We did see some weed reduction, but we did not see no weeds out in these fields. And so combination of reduced herbicides and rye mulch works pretty well with soybeans. Rolling the rye down also helps with Harvest, because when you have a lot of rye residue, especially with the combine we have, it can be a challenge to get that rye to flow through the combine. Well, at least through the header. The header can really start to push a lot of that residue if you're trying to float it on the ground and harvest soybeans, so rolling it down if the rye is tall, rolling it down. Now, in many cases, we're planting soybeans earlier and earlier. And it makes sense. And so in a lot of cases we may not have rye that's that big. And so we won't have that much residue. We may not need to roll it because we do want to optimize the soybean production. And so getting a savings out there when it's time to plant them and then terminating the rye, the status quo we're going for. But I guess we've we've documented that you can do it by letting the rye get really big as well. It can work. So a picture of harvesting soybeans. We want to get our soybeans off pretty early because we want to follow with winter wheat in this system. And so we're growing slightly shorter maturity soybeans in our part of Michigan, we're using like early Group 2's to try to get a harvest date of late September or the first week of October at the latest. That's going to vary depending on where you're at in the state, but variety of maturity and also when you plant them. But generally, we know that wheat, we need to get good yields from our wheat because wheat is a hard crop to make a substantial profit on. And we need to be successful in this system. And so getting the right maturity group of soybeans is pretty important so that you can optimize the yields of your soybeans, but also get your wheat established and get it off and going because early, late wheat planting results in more and more yield, yield potential loss as it gets later into the fall. Hey, Brook, have you looked at harvesting your rye cover prior to planting? We have done some of that. Yes. I'm trying to think back to the experiments and what data I have. It works, Let's say it works pretty good to harvest the right cover crop as a forage. If you have the time to do it. If you have the time to go in there and cut it and maybe you can chop it off and try not to track your fields up, right? Is it dry enough to get out there and do it? And if you can get it off in a timely manner and then go plant soybeans plant really well into that like harvested rye residue. It creates a really nice situation. And when we've done it, we've had outstanding soybean yields. But I think that the challenge is just the timing of it. When we're so busy in the spring, do we have the time to take that cutting in mid May in and around trying to get the other crops planted and have the weather to accommodate it is the challenge because if it's wet out there, marginally wet, we can go plant soybeans into the rye because the right helps us move moisture out of the soil and really making that one pass over the field. But if it's wet and we need to go harvest the Rye drive trucks out there, multiple passes. We're going to end up with compaction and so forth. So you gotta be really strategic about if you tried to do that.  Yes, makes sense. So winter wheat works really well. No till. You gotta make sure you get your soybean residue spread out and chopped up well so you don't have clumps of that. We are in combination with Manny Singh and Dennis Pennington working on precision wheat planting, we actually have a new planter coming that's going to precision seed, cingulate wheat seeds in  five inch rows. And so we're really excited to see if we can do better with wheat planting into no till situations right after harvest and potentially lower our seeding rates and still get the same or higher yields by essentially managing wheat more like we do corn. And so we're excited to see that come together. We don't have that planter yet. It's supposed to be here this spring. So hopefully be doing some trials. And we've had some trials where we have a 10-inch planter that's been double planted in five rows and it's showing some promise, but it's hard to, it's hard to do that for a couple of different reasons. So really excited about pushing forward. I also want to briefly mention barley. We don't have a lot of barley in the state, but barley, winter barley is a really promising crop if we would have a substantial market for it, which we don't really, I mean, you can feed, it works great as a feed ingredient, but we have a small market through craft malt houses, but not much of a large-scale market for malting barley. But the reason I like it is that it grows a lot like wheat. It's a little bit more sensitive to winter damage than wheat. But if you get it planted timely, late September, early October, it can do really well. It can be pretty darn productive and it's harvested, it's ready to harvest about ten days ahead of wheat. So in Southern Michigan, that means the last week of June in many cases. And that allows us a great opportunity to double crop soybeans. So this is soybeans are planted right into barley residue. And obviously we took all the straw. You can see that they're up and going and if we have moisture for double crop soybeans, so we can plant in late June or really early July. We can consistently produce a decent soybean crop. If we don't have moisture, we probably won't get much yield. But it's kind of a low cost investment in an attempt at double cropping if you want to give it a try. But I really like it for that case, I think there's an opportunity because livestock based system, you don't have to double crop with soybeans. You could double crop with forages or something else. Here's a sunflower or sorghum. Sunflower is in the foreground. Sorghum in the background after winter barley. So you can grow a lot of that. Of course, we could grow various cover crops. Here's some radishes, um, that are valuable in some, especially valuable in like sugar beet systems as pest suppression tools. We can grow legume cover crops and grow our nitrogen for a next crop. After wheat or barley, or even canola, you could put it in that box. I'm really interested in like precision cover cropping where we target the rows of cover crops where our next cash crop is going to grow. This particular example here had hairy vetch in five-foot rows and it was gonna be in a squash system. But we can think of something similar for cash crops as well. Well, lots of people are having successfully diverse cover crop blends that you grow out there. You may or may not harvest for forage, but we're seeing substantial improvements in the soil and benefits to the subsequent crops. Of course, if you do have that diverse cover crop, you can graze it and make an outstanding feed. These cows are almost done with the cover crop. And I think this is important. If we are grazing cover crops, we don't necessarily have to go out there and do really like intensive rotational grazing because we don't really care that much of the cover crop response for another grazing event. We just want the cattle or animals to harvest it. And so you could fence a 50 acre field and let the animals go eat it, eat what they want, be done by the fall. Some of the cover crop will re-grow that's going to survive the winter. And so it's, it's kinda easy to graze. It's just a matter of getting water and fencing there to graze these cover crops. So be really inexpensive feed. So I don't 100% understand where this question is going. But you might Brooke. It says include animals where are grazing heifers and dry cows who leave manure with its microbes. What soil microbes are measuring populations plus types, whether aspirational versus usual. So okay. If, I'll try and  interpret the question, we are measuring in our systems the aspirational and businesses usual soil health every year. And that's led by Dr. Kristine Bruckner. And we're taking those samples in the fall. So we have every, every crop represented every year. So we're kinda getting a point after every crop business as usual or aspirational. And as we go through this transition of, you know, everything was conventionally managed and we're transitioning to this aspirational system. And in those soil health measurements, we're getting kind of the typical soil health metrics like organic, nitrogen, carbon mineralization. Maybe some indications of microbial biomass. Probably not a lot about like particular microbes that gets really hard and expensive and maybe not that useful other than just trying to understand what's going on. And nematodes, a grad student is looking into nematodes in these systems to see what sort of how they can be indicators of performance of the soil. And so we're trying to get a handle on that. Certainly, we'd expect and hypothesize that our soil health metrics are going to increase in the aspirational system over time. We're really keen to see which ones and maybe if like a particular crop, crops in the rotation matter for how soil health looks every year. So as far as we know, this is gonna be the first long-term experiment like this that has soil health measurements from the start. And we're really excited about that. But I can't say that we've learned anything yet because we're just really getting started with that particular project. Okay. How am I doing on time? Okay. Just getting back to our system, I kinda went off on a tangent about what cover cropping you could do or double cropping. Remember, we're going to canola after the wheat, but we don't want to leave this like two-month period just fallow. This is a picture of mowing sudex that roughly you could expect at least this much to grow in a two month period, probably a little bit more in most years. And so we're coming in and we're mowing it, were bailing it. We're chopping it, getting it off the field. Storing it for winter feed makes great feed, especially for dry cows and heifers, dairy cows. It a little bit different to me. You can mix it in a ration, but it depends on how big it is when you cut it. Then we're coming in right in with winter canola. I have ambitions to try to do this without herbicide, but I think it's gonna be really hard. Canola is a tiny seed and a really small crop when we're planting 2.6 pounds of seed per acre for a full canola crop, that's giving us like 300,000 plants per acre, seeds per acre, okay? But those seeds are small and they're sensitive. And you can see there the kinda tiny rows coming up, they're in this residue and we're, we're embarking on a little bit of uncharted territory with no till canola planting into residue situations. This is what it looks like a little bit later in the fall once those plants get going. However, I don't have a picture of this, but this year we did have a lot of slug damage in our canola. Partially we're thinking, well, we're not sure if this is going to be a perennial problem or if this is a problem of transitioning to a system with the residue and no till or if this is going to be a consistent issue, but it is something we have to be concerned with and we'll be learning more over time. So we're going to have to replant some of our canola areas with Spring canola this year, which we know are going to yield blast with Spring canola. We can still grow it, but it just lower yields and a little bit harvest timing. But slugs, slugs in no-till farming systems are a challenge. We know that seed treatments, insecticide seed treatments are not helpful for slugs. In fact, they often cause problems by limiting the growth of predators, slug predators. So we're trying to avoid insecticide seed treatments as much as possible, although we are using it in the corn part of the system. But we're hoping that maybe when we get down to the road and we're using that insecticide only once every five years then maybe we can rebuild our soil or biological community. And slugs may not be quite as much of a outbreak potential. We'll see, something to be learned. But we have high hopes for winter canola and it's beautiful. This is May 13th of this last year. Winter canola in full bloom in May is absolutely astonishing. Keep in mind right now, and May 13th we're just getting corn and soybeans planted and we already have canola that's 5 ft tall and full blooms and full of flowers for tons and tons of honey bees. Canola, hybrid canola, by the way, does not need to be pollinated by bees, but there's some evidence that pollination enhances production and seed set and seed maturity, like consistency of ripening of the canola. If you ever grow canola, you'll notice bees are everywhere. What it looks like a little bit later in the summer, it's about done flowering. Canola is typically harvested, winter canola would be about the same time as winter wheat. Mid early to mid July. In our system, we're coming through after the canola is harvested and planting a forage. Now canola likes to reseed itself. And this is a picture of spring canola that's reseeded itself. This is the fall and we have our perennial forage actually under seeded into this field. We planted it into a fallow field, but then the spring canola grew back and we talked about mowing it or trying to get rid of it. But then I noticed all the bees in there. And it was quite impressive. So we decided to leave it because we assume this canola is probably going to winter kill or it will make a good forage in the next spring, so we left it and the forage looks pretty good underneath it now all the canola is brown and it's just the forage that's underneath it that should be primed to take off in the spring. Again, that forage is alfalfa, red clover, ryegrass, and chickery. And we added Chickery in the mix because it's, it's a plant that is a lot like a dandelion. It has a taproot. And I noticed that in our forage and either pastures or forage crops, dandelions love to grow. So the intention is like, let's grow a crop that actually contributes to good feed quality and quantity, but doesn't cause problems potentially, by just being a weed. So chickery in there. One thing I noticed, another video here. Thing I noticed about. You can see that butterfly, they're red clover in a mixture with alfalfa. The red clover flowers a couple of weeks after cutting. But quality maintains its quality longer. After flowering then Alfalfa does. And there were a lot of butterflies in our fields the summer when that red clover was flowering. Just some little things that we're still going to have great high-quality feed, outstanding Feed quality from this. But we also had butterflies, which it was a monoculture, alfalfa and grass. We wouldn't have just some little exciting stuff to notice that if we do this, little, little good things can happen. Of course, a forage crop like that, you could graze. This is just a pasture. This and that our, our field and this is, our intention is to graze these forage crops eventually. But we have a lot of logistical infrastructure to get in place before we can do this. Any livestock farm that raises cattle or sheep probably has a mixture of grazing and harvested forage. And so every farm might approach this differently. And what you harvest for winter stored feed versus what you graze. just finding those opportunities to make use of that forage, but also enhance the cropping system. Then we get back to manure application and planting again. So circling back to the corn planting, I want to tell this story again. One story I do want to tell before we finish up is is what we call There's different terms for precision conservation. Prairie strips also use the Bruno Basso lab uses biodiversity conservation areas. Our goal with this is not just to plant prairie for the sake of planting prairie, but to identify the low yielding spots in our fields, which a lot of times are along tree lines and stop farming them and plant them to something that is diverse, might have biodiversity benefits and is also relatively easy to manage, but won't grow up into trees. That will be as trees. Most cases in our fields trees take a lot of resources from crops. And so if you grow crops next to trees, crops don't do very well. And so we're trying to create this margin. In many cases where we have tree line, that's historic. Prairie, maybe 30 ft or so seems to be a good width to have Prairie. And then start your crop field. Because we know that 30 ft along the tree line rarely if ever was profitable. So a typical field, we use yield maps help with the Basso, Basso Lab helped a lot identify long-term yield map and areas that are low or low profiting or never profitable. Then we identified these areas and then planted prairie in them and will continue to manage the prairie either by mowing or burning, to keep trees from growing, but try to maintain it so that we do get that diverse flowering habit. And you can see this field here. We've got an edge, the yellow strips are the prairie. An edge here if 30 ft. And then we've got to really sandy degraded slope that never grows anything. We're just going to plant, we planted. that to Prairie.  We're just going to drive over it when we're farming we measured everything out in  widths of our sprayer. So 90 ft wide is our sprayer. So it's easy to farm around. And then we have another spot over here where there's a prairie strip going through this grass or this old waterway, try to limit erosion and then another kinda Sandy corner. All the prairie, all air, mostly areas that we were losing money trying to grow crops. So we expect our overall profit margin to increase. And if you're a farmer, you can get payments like CRP type payments for prairie strips in these areas as well to help offset any management costs of installing a prairie, The key component is just stop farming the areas that we're losing money on if we can, but make it logistically feasible for you to do. So. You don't have a nightmare trying to farm around areas. What a first-year prairie strip looks like. You see a power pole and the back there, we also tried to locate some of these along power lines where we were having extreme input inefficiencies because of overlap in applications, trying to go around power poles, where it takes a while to get established to three years before we really see good establishment. And then an aerial view of another field where we added a kind of a Prairie through the middle and some blocks and some really sandy hills that we took out of production again, 90 ft wide passes that we can easily farm, stop farming farm and then just go around. So we position these very strategically. There's another prairie strip along this edge here. We briefly talked about bio char. I think there is some opportunity, I didn't mention this, maybe some opportunity for strategic biochar  placement in very sandy areas of the field. Maybe with prairie strips, maybe if you want to try to heal that soil. But again, I think it takes a lot of biochar and it's not gonna be a magic bullet. So I'm going to skip over this for the sake of time. But there's all kinds of practices that we're implementing in this system. It's working. We're having some challenges, but we're able to overcome those challenges. And as a reminder, this is what we're shooting for. Shooting for production efficiencies and try to get these environmental performances as well. But not, not at the expense of profit for the farmer, the farmer well-being. It's not necessarily easy. It's complicated. But I think we have a lot of evidence that most of the things we're doing have a, an outcome. We can, we can tie them to unexpected outcome that's favorable. But we have to overcome the little hurdles along the way and make sure in measure that what we're doing is actually making the difference that we think we are. Because if we're going down the wrong pathway, we need to be able to tell that to everybody to like, maybe this was a bad idea, this particular component. And we need to cut that out. So that's what we're going to try to learn that try to help inform people along the way and continue to work with producers and stake holders to try to, try to continue to learn for decades how to put in these aspirational cropping systems. I think I'm out of time. I'll stop there. Hey, you did good, Brook, you're right on time here. Thank you for joining us.