Greensburg Daily News, Greensburg, IN

September 14, 2013

Wenning farm hosts soil specialists Experts discuss cover crops, farming's future

By Brent Brown Daily News
Greensburg Daily News

---- — GREENSBURG – Award winning local farmer Roger Wenning knows a thing or two about getting the most out of his expansive fields.

Having spent decades experimenting with the most efficient way to make his farm a success, Wenning’s methods, particularly in the use of cover crops, have gained him notoriety and recognition throughout the state as one of the best in his profession.

With that in mind, the 2013 iteration of the Indiana Association of Professional Soil Classifiers Fall Tour, seems like a natural fit for the Wenning farm. Roger and family hosted approximately 70 soil specialists from across the Hoosier State Friday, bringing together some of the top minds in Indiana for a look at farming’s present as well as its future at the Wennings’ Greensburg farm.

The workshop, which was organized by resource soil scientist Dena Marshall, allowed Wenning and several others to give technical presentations regarding soil health and sustainability to a group of experts hailing from nearly every corner of the state.

Marshall, who represented the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), told the Daily News the workshop “provides a learning opportunity for soil science.” Marshall said Wenning’s farm is considered a Soil Health “Hub” Farm due to Roger’s “progressive innovation” and his willingness to share his successes – and failures – with his colleagues. To that end, Wenning gave a presentation Friday morning centered on his mentoring, the history of his farm and the techniques he’s using to bring about impressive yields.

Jane Hardisty, state conservationist with the USDA and NRCS, called Wenning “one of our best farmers” and cited his use of cover crops, precision farming, nutrition management and no-till farming as instruments that have led to his success.

“He’s one of our outstanding conservation farmers,” Hardisty said of her host. “He loves to share; he wants to share … He stands out as a real leader in this state.”

Hardisty also complimented her fellow attendees saying part of Indiana’s recognition as the national leader in the soil health movement is due to the soil specialists’ ability to keep the state “on the leading edge in innovation,” and helping Hoosier farmers get the most out of their land.

“They know the best use of their soil,” Hardisty said. “They understand the value of our Indiana soil.”

The group had the opportunity to see some of that prized soil firsthand via a morning tour by Wenning. Among those on that tour was Dr. Hans Kok of Conservation Cropping Systems Indiana who later told the Daily News that Roger’s approach to farming and conservation is “the future” of soil sustainability.

Wenning cited his use of cover crops as a means of retaining moisture, nutrients and organic material for his soil, which he tends to each year using the no-till method. This process has allowed Wenning to spend less on pesticides and fertilizer while helping ensure his fields will have bountiful harvests far in the future.

Wenning and Kok cautioned that many farmers today are engaged in practices that will bring financial returns now at the cost of decreased soil sustainability later. It takes more than a millennium for depleted soil to again become fertile, Kok mentioned, meaning that changes in farming techniques are becoming more of a necessity now than ever before. Wenning added that an ever-growing world population cannot hope that science alone will solve the problems of feeding billions, and he said that a future wherein the United States is dependent upon other countries for food is a scenario no American farmer should wish to see.

But Dr. Kok and Wenning mentioned that Roger’s practices stem from trying techniques that may be too financially risky for some farmers. Kok, specifically, urged others to speak with Wenning and other farmers like him before diving into new processes.

“I would encourage them (other farmers) to make connections,” Kok said.” They should find out what Roger did and what is so exciting about it.”

Contact: Brent Brown 812-663-3111 x7056