Ed Hegland farms land that has been in his family since the 1940’s. The farm ground, on western Minnesota’s prairie south of Appleton, is rimmed with wetlands and marshes and borders Lac qui Parle Lake, near the headwaters of the Minnesota River. Ed raises corn, soybeans, and sometimes wheat. He’s also raising three young children with his wife Dawn.
“I took over in 1992,” Hegland says. “The farm has been in the family a long time and now I’ve been farming it for 23 years.”
Ed is the youngest of four siblings to grow up on the farm. After high school, he attended the University of Minnesota, earning a degree in agronomy. While it wasn’t necessarily his intention to come back to farming, he was offered the opportunity and took it.
It’s largely open prairie in his immediate area. He recalls his dad Jim making deliberate efforts to protect the soil and water around him.
“My dad was quite a conservationist, planting lots of windrows of trees and wildlife ponds. He planted thousands and thousands of trees, so I grew up with that and I like to see all the conservation that we can put in place, yet still have productive farm ground. Top yield is what I’m going for but I like to see as much conservation in place as we can,” Hegland says.
Ed began experimenting with conservation tillage almost a decade ago as a way to reduce wind and soil erosion on his farm. He has strip-tilled his corn since 2008 and began doing the same for his soybeans three years ago. Now he zone-tills everything he farms with his SoilWarrior.
Going from full surface tillage to reduced tillage was an adjustment, but it’s one he’s never regretted. With comparable yields, lower input costs, greater control of nutrients and improved soil health and erosion control, the decision to adopt strip-till on his entire farm was a good one for him.
“I think some of the neighbors don’t know what I’m doing out there,” Hegland adds with a chuckle. “They see all this residue left and think it’s going to be a mess the next spring. I just tell them I wouldn’t change a thing. As far as strip tilling, I have no intention of changing that anytime in the foreseeable future.”
Hegland made the switch to strip-till because it made economic and environmental sense. When it came to choosing the right tool for the job, he tested several different pieces of equipment. He purchased a SoilWarrior in 2013 because he liked its durability and versatility. But it wasn’t a decision he made without first doing his due diligence.
Over the next few months, we will follow Ed through the entire growing season. Be sure to check back to learn from his experiences and see what 2015 has in store.
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