Mike Koep and his son, Kevin, practice conservation on their farmland, and they know the importance of protecting our water and soil. Because of their conservation decisions, the Koep farms near Urbank are now Water Quality Certified in the Minnesota Ag Water Quality Certification Program (MAWQCP). The Koep farming operation joins over 800 Water Quality Certified farming operations in Minnesota’s unique, 5-year old program that recognizes farmers’ efforts to protect the state’s water quality.
For a farming operation to be Water Quality Certified, a system or combination of conservation practices needs to be adopted on the land – conservation practices that are suited for that particular soil type, topography, and type of farming operation. Mike and Kevin have done just that.
To keep their soil erosion rates low, the Koeps practice conservation tillage and leave stubble from the harvested crop on the soil surface in the fall, winter, and into early spring. This “crop residue cover” protects the soil, reduces soil erosion, and slows down water runoff. Their recent choice of fall tillage implement maintains a higher level of stubble on the soil surface, resulting in 50% or more of the soil surface covered in wheat stubble over winter. The Koeps’ choice to plant narrow soybeans also aids in protecting the soil, as the crop canopy closes more quickly and provides protection for the soil in rain events. Because of these choices, very little soil sediment leaves their farms.
The Koeps maintain grassed filter strips along the drainageways, ponds, wetlands, and the creek on their farmland. These areas of vegetation along the water’s edge trap soil sediment and nutrients before they enter the water. They also found that participation in the MAWQCP program helped them meet the requirements of the Minnesota Buffer Law.
Mike and Kevin practice proper nutrient management and are careful about their fertilizer applications rates, in order to save on input costs and to protect water quality. The Koeps follow University of Minnesota recommendations for their soil sampling strategy and for their applications of nutrients for their soybean and wheat crops. In order to prevent nitrogen loss by leaching or runoff, all nitrogen for their wheat crop is applied in the spring and includes a blend with the ESN form of nitrogen.
Proper pest management is also important to protect water quality, and the Koeps use good management steps as they control weeds and insects on their farms. They rotate modes of action in their choice of herbicides, and they do careful scouting and use University threshold numbers, particularly when deciding when to treat for insects in their soybean crops.
“Mike and Kevin Koep can be proud of their decisions to protect Minnesota’s water and soil and of receiving their Water Quality Certified Farm sign in early December,’ says said Jim Lahn, the program’s Area Certification Specialist, who works with the program in 11 counties in north central Minnesota. “I appreciate the Koeps’ participation this program - it is excellent way for farmers to explore use of new Conservation Practices and also to tell the story of the good things they do to protect water quality.”
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