2014 D

Grower: John and Dean Werries (Werries Farm LLC)
Retailer: Verne “Tinker” Bader (Bader Agricultural Service, Inc.)
State: Illinois

Werries Farm LLC, managed by John and his son Dean, maintains 3,800 acres of corn and soybeans on owned and rented land consisting of both flat fertile soil and less productive rolling terrain (3,500 acres of corn oncorn). They also sell cover crop seed and offer custom seeding through a new venture, Chapin Cover Crops.

“We started using no-till on soybeans in 1990,” John says. “We were half beans and half corn then. In 1996, we started strip-tilling corn acres to retain organic matter and reduce soil erosion.”

Still focused on keeping soil in place, the Werries worked with their longtime retailer, Verne “Tinker” Bader, owner of Bader Agricultural Service, Inc., in 2011 to develop a new strategy for managing fertility. He nominated the Werries for the 4R Advocate award.

Last year’s harvest proved the effectiveness of this approach. Despite a lack of rain in August 2013, Werries’ average corn yield was 233.8 bushels/acre. The average regional yield was 185 bushels per acre.

“The 4R approach just makes sense,” John says. “If you apply everything in the fall and get a big rain event, you run the risk of losing it to surface runoff and through the tile. By spreading it out, you’re more likely to keep it for the crop. You’re more likely to keep your nutrients in place if you keep your soil where it belongs.”

Always seeking improvements, the Werries sowed cover crops on all 3,800 acres in 2012, starting with ryegrass and cereal rye.