March 1, 2021

Iowa Farmer, Jerry Dove, On Measuring What’s In The Soil

Grower and agronomist Jerry Dove’s interest in science and technology first developed while earning his bachelor’s degree in Agronomy at Iowa State University. “I was always thinking about what’s going on below the surface,” says Jerry. After completing his degree in 1982, he returned to his family’s centennial farm in Janesville, Iowa. They primarily grow corn and soybeans and also grow alfalfa and cereal rye.

Right out of school, Jerry started doing his own soil sampling. “I tried to soil sample all my fields based on soil type,” he says. But at that time, soil was viewed much differently. “I was schooled that soil was like a bank that you put phosphorus and potassium into, and it’s always going to be there. That’s not the way we should be thinking, but we did 40 years ago.”



Jerry’s always been a believer in good soil testing, and that’s why he works with Jason Gomes at North Iowa Agronomy Partners. They put together a comprehensive plan for pulling samples that gives him confidence when applying variable rate phosphorus and potassium fertilizers on his farm.

When Jerry’s agronomist, Jason, told him about Trace Genomics, he thought it would be interesting to see what the analysis uncovered. Though Jerry has long been a proponent of soil health and utilizes no-till and cover cropping, he believes there’s always more to learn. “I’ve got a lot to learn on soil health, and Trace gets us going and helps make sense of it by quantifying what’s in the soil.”


“It’s good to see this new data, so we can put values to how we are making improvements.”


Jerry was pleasantly surprised with Trace’s Soil Health Indicators, and says “it’s good to see this new data, so we can put values to how we are making improvements.” This is particularly important to Jerry as he and other growers in his area work closely with the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service.

Trace is also helping Jerry learn more about how pathogens are affecting his fields. One of the soybean fields he tested with Trace had a severe Sudden Death Syndrome (SDS) problem that caused his soybeans yields to take a big hit. It forced him to take soybeans out of rotation and put that field in continuous corn until he was sure SDS wouldn’t be an issue.

“We planted corn-on-corn for 10 years, and when Trace’s results came back, that field reported low fusarium* levels,” Jerry said, surprised by the results, as he expected to see the opposite. “That tells me the cultural choice I made to grow continuous corn chased the fusarium down. Trace’s results give me a lot of confidence to go ahead and put that into a rotation now.”

The goal of any farmer is to leave the soil better than they found it. Jerry says “after 38 years, I’m there. The soil is in a better position. Now the question is, how can we further improve over the next 10 years?”

*Fusarium virguliforme is the causal pathogen that leads to Sudden Death Syndrome of Soybean

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