June 7, 2019

Minnesota Farmer, Myron Sylling, On Reducing Soil Erosion

Myron has always loved technology and crunching numbers, “When GPS equipment first came out on ag equipment in 1997 we got it for our operation, so we have yield data dating back twenty-two years.” He went to technical school for computer programing and worked in town for twenty years, while helping his dad and brother farm 1,300 acres of corn and soybeans in Southeastern, Minnesota. A few years ago Myron turned to farming full-time.

Converting To New Management Practices

Each time Myron came back to the farm, while he was working full-time, the first thing he looked at was the soil, “I never liked seeing the erosion.” Balancing a full-time job along with farming, he was searching for ways to reduce erosion, while being as efficient with his time as possible. The solution came after attending a no-till conference in the 1990s. Shortly after that, they moved the entire operation to no-till. It ended up being a huge time saver and over the years they have seen a visible reduction in soil erosion. This sparked an interest in Myron to become involved in conversations around improving soil health. In 2012, another pivotal moment came when he heard about cover crops. The government had just announced that EQIP funding had become available in their area. It seemed like a no-brainer to try it at no cost. They started small, with 300 acres, only cover cropping areas where there was significant erosion. The following spring they got a ton of rain and to their surprise in the areas the cover crops had been there was virtually no erosion, “This was a huge eye opener for us.”

 

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At the end of three years they were cover cropping 600 acres, half of which they were writing the check for. Today, they cover crop as many acres as they can. They have the results to prove the effectiveness of no-till and cover cropping, “After three years of a healthy and well-established cover crop my organic matter raised 1%.” They’ve seen no-till and cover crops increase organic matter, which in turn has expanded their crops water holding capacity. For soybeans in particular, they saw a reduction in the amount of weeds. For their corn-on-corn ground, “Everyone warned us we were going to take a yield hit, but we just aren’t seeing it drop.” Myron attributes this to cover cropping on the corn stalks to help break the residue and hold the nitrogen to give it back when the crop needs it.

“If you value your time and soil you can immediately see a financial gain on stopping erosion.”

A Passion For Soil Health

Myron’s focus on soil health stems from being a conservationist focused on economic value, “There’s a feel good part, but you can’t lose money doing it.” Soil erosion can lead to nutrient loss, nitrogen leaching and poor water quality. The value of preventing erosion can be quantified Myron points out, “If you value your time and soil you can immediately see a financial gain on stopping erosion.”

Myron is currently exploring what adjustments can be made on the inputs side. If he can sustain strong soil, while not taking a yield hit by modifying his fertility plan, that’s money back to his bottom line. He plans to use Trace’s technology to evaluate the effect of his fertilizers on the biological activity in the soil, “With Trace, there’s an opportunity to prove it actually did what it said.” There’s a time value too, especially this year where a stretch of a few days with no weather delays is precious and he’d rather spend time planting than spreading fertilizer.

 

About: Myron Sylling is the co-owner and operator of a 1,300 acre corn and soybean operation in Southeastern Minnesota.

 

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