Greg Entinger in rural New Prague was a farmer with an erosion problem. Today he is a proponent of strip tillage, cover crops, intake treatments, sediment retention areas, nutrient management, and other practices that build soil health and reduce erosion. By keeping more soil on the land and holding more water, these practices also help water quality downstream.
Entinger grows corn and soybeans on 925 acres in Le Sueur and Rice counties that drain to Sand Creek and then the Minnesota River. The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) recently released several studies on the Minnesota River Basin that call for widespread changes, especially on cropland, to improve the water quality of the river and its tributaries.
Entinger has implemented several best management practices (BMPs) that help water quality. However, water quality wasn’t his main reason for changing his cropping system.
“The strip tillage because I had erosion … in 2013, we had so much erosion. I decided to make a change," Entinger says. "With an engineering background, I thought ‘What can I bring to the farm?’ ”
After doing extensive online research, attending many farm shows, as far way as Louisville and Des Moines, and consulting with other farmers, he decided to switch to strip tillage in 2015. This involves tilling narrow strips for crop establishment while leaving areas between the strips with undisturbed crop residue. Strip tillage can reduce soil erosion and soil compaction, as well as machinery, fuel, and labor costs.
“I was bound and determined to do it. I bet the farm on it – literally,” Entinger says.
His investment paid off. Since then, he has seen a bump in yields and a decrease in costs, meaning more profit per acre. The cover crops soon followed. While expensive to plant, cover crops build soil health and lead to reduced fertilizer use.
Wanting to show other farmers that conservation can pay economically as well as environmentally, Entinger decided to enroll in the Minnesota Ag Water Quality Certification Program through the Minnesota Department of Agriculture. MPCA Commissioner Laura Bishop will present Entinger with his water quality certification on Aug. 28 at his farm. The program will start with lunch at 12:30 p.m. and include a showcase of his practices. Those planning to attend should RSVP to Cathy Rofshus at the MPCA by Aug. 23.