Wisconsin lawmakers participate in on-farm nutrient Stewardship Field Day

Gloria Hafemeister
The Griswold family of Tag Lane Farm at Ixonia hosted a field day featuring ways they protect nutrients on their farm through the use of soil testing, variable rate fertilizing and cover crops.  The event was sponsored by the Jefferson County Farm Bureau and Insight FS.  Family members include, from left, Ryan, Kevin and Chris, Kenzie Halverson, Brad, Scott, Elaine and Tom Griswold.

IXONIA – Area farmers, Wisconsin legislators, state agency representatives and local officials learned about sustainable farming practices at Tag Lane Dairy at Ixonia last week.  The field day was sponsored by Sustainable 4RWI, a partnership between the Wisconsin Farm Bureau Federation and Insight FS.

Sustainable 4RWI focuses on the 4R approach to nutrient stewardship – using the right nutrient source, at the right rate, at the right time, in the right place – that allows for the achievement of cropping system goals including enhanced environmental protection, increased farmer profitability and improved sustainability.   

The field day was hosted by the Griswold family of Tag Lane Dairy in Ixonia as a way to showcase the precision planting practices, nutrient management planning, precision nitrogen application and cover crop development on the farm. 

“We value our partnership with Insight FS and are grateful for the opportunity to highlight our shared sustainability goals with legislators and community leaders,” said Kevin Griswold, owner of Tag Lane Dairy.  

“It is important for everyone to work together to be good conservationists,” said Scott Schultz, Jefferson County Farm Bureau Board member. “We have come a long way and are proud to showcase the great work we are doing.”  

Representative Mark Spreitzer, who sits on the Assembly Committee on Agriculture, attended the event. 

“It’s great to see what farmers are doing with conservation practices such as cover crops, no-till and precision nitrogen application,” shared Rep. Spreitzer. “These practices help to reduce runoff, improve soil health and improve a farmer’s bottom line.” 

According to Ben Huber, general manager of Insight FS, one goal of these events is to have these conversations on the farm, while looking directly at the technology, collaborations and the planning that goes into these practices. 

Visitors learned about the soil sampling that is done on the Griswold farm.  According to Brad Griswold, the family samples on a 2.5-acre grid. State guidelines call for sampling on a 5-acre grid.

The family not only applies fertilizer according to the rate recommendations but they also have set up their planter for split applications.  Using computer production maps from previous years they also adjust for the yield potential on given areas of each field.

Brad Griswold of Tag Lane Farm at Ixonia worked closely with crop specialists at Ixonia FS to set up their planter for variable rate fertilizing of their crops in order to get the most benefit from the nutrients and avoid losing any during the season. Parker Ludking and Darren Riskedal described how they use crop maps and the tractor’s computer mapping system to adjust rates in the 16 row planter.

They never apply commercial fertilizer on land that doesn’t have a growing crop on it and they strive to feed the crop as it takes up the nutrients, not all when the crop is planted.

Parker Ludking and Darren Riskedal demonstrated how they helped Brad Griswold set up the farm’s new 16-row corn planter. It places nitrogen in a narrow band right next to the rood so the seed can immediately use it. They control the application rate according to what is needed in each area of the field.

Brad says, “We treat each acre rather than treating it as one big field.”

He admits it is a bit more difficult to control applications on alfalfa because of the difficulty of knowing exactly how much production is taken from a particular area.

The family began with cover crops by frost seeding clover into wheat fields in March.  Then they moved into establishing rye as a cover and harvesting it in spring.  Finally, they got into establishing multi-species cover crops.

They see benefits in preventing erosion and compaction as well as holding nutrients in the soil.

Scott Schultz, left, of the Jefferson County Farm Bureau, Dean Wiechmann of the Jefferson County Soils group and Brenden Blank, right, an Ixonia farmer and cover crop specialist shared ideas of how cover crops can help protect nutrients in the soil and prevent erosion.

Brendon Blank has been helping area farmers establish cover crops and uses them extensively on his own farm. He says, “The value of diversity is different plants do different things. Buckwheat pulls phosphorus to the surface, for example.  With a diverse system we are feeding the life in the soil.  Also, by letting the plants collect sunlight they then transfer that energy from the sun into the soil.”

Kevin Griswold heads the farm business, with help from his sons Brad and Ryan. His wife Chris does the financial management on the farm.

“We have been using cover crops for a long time," Kevin says. "We double crop using triticale for early feed. It is harvested just before first crop hay and then we plant corn into it. We haven’t noticed any drag on the corn yield because of it as long as we get rain.”

Griswold says to be successful, the cover crop must be planted no later than Oct. 1, adding that their goal is to get their covers in early and then apply manure from their pit using a low-disturbance applicator.

The family patriarch says the family is proud to host to the sustainable field day. “The farmers I know want to do what’s best for the environment.  We are keeping an eye on new varieties of corn that will require less nitrogen.  A lot of what is happening is driven by what consumers want.”

The Griswolds milk 1700 cows in a D28 Germania herringbone parlor. They have a 4-person crew with three milking and one moving cows. When they remodeled their parlor and enlarged it a few years ago they updated all of their technology to include fit-bits for each cow and technology that monitors protein, yield and fat in the production of each cow.

Kevin’s parents Tom and Elaine who started the farm in 1968 with 43 Guernseys are amazed at the technology in today’s farming but they have been supporting and encouraging to their son and grandsons as they strive to keep the family business going.