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Mark Ditlevson – NACD Soil Champion

Ditlevson_PhotoI am the owner and operator of a third generation farm located in Blooming Prairie in Steele County, Minnesota. My wife, Renee Worke (a Court Appeals Judge), and I have two sons—M. Roosevelt (Rosy), a U.S. Naval officer stationed in Guam, and Mick, a sophomore attending Pepperdine University in Malibu, California.

I was recently recognized as the Outstanding Conservation Farmer by the Steele County Soil and Water Conservation District. I have a long history of implementing conservation practices and land stewardship principles, including ridge tilling and cover crops. I am Director of the Steele County Free Fair, a member of the Minnesota Corn and Soybean Growers Association, and a member of the Steele County Agricultural Society. I also work with local soil teams and 4-H groups in supporting sustainable farming methods.

 

Soil Health Practices:

I am presently growing corn and soybean crops, inter-seeding with multi-species cover crop, and transitioning from ridge-till to no-till with continued multi-species cover crop rotations. Having ridge-tilled for nearly 30 years, my current transition is intended to derive economic benefits associated with lower equipment costs, as well as the added soil benefits.

I have had a positive experience with all of the soil health practices I’ve implemented. Specifically, I’ve noted measurable increases in organic matter. I can positively state that my overall soil structure has improved and the angle worm population has increased. Infiltration has improved land quality with no ponding. Any negative experiences would be a slight increase in different weed and insect pressure.

Challenges:

Soil health practices tend to be passed on from one generation to the next. It is difficult to break history and tradition. Thus the challenge to implement better or new soil health practices is difficult, absent education on aggressive till. Changing or breaking the old trends can be accomplished by incentivizing farmers to try something different. We need to advocate for community or government incentives to encourage farmers to try something new and different. Incentives could include technical and financial assistance and recognition or implementation of a farm mentorship program. Public perception is similarly difficult to overcome; unless the population is educated about the need to protect our natural resources and the need for new and innovated farming methods, we remain subject to criticism.

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