COLUMBUS, Neb. — Growers from eastern Nebraska came to hear from the experts about sustainable farming during the Cover Crop Management Day held at Ag Park.

The event was supported by Nebraska Extension Platte County and the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). The event was put together by cover crop producer Don Gasper of Lindsay, Neb., Extension Educator Megan Taylor and Eric Smith of the NRCS.

The event’s two guest speakers were Dwayne Beck and Daren Redfearn. Beck is a research manager at Dakota Lakes Research Farm in South Dakota. He is a professor in the Plant Science Department at South Dakota State University.

Before presenting, Beck told The Telegram his talk would cover crop diversity, livestock integration, sustainability and ecosystem processes. He argued for large, impactful changes toward sustainable farming practices rather than small, incremental adjustments to common day practices.

“Well, I hope it makes them think about farming practices we use and how we do things and maybe what’s going to happen if we keep doing this that way for the next couple hundred years,” Beck said. “I’m going to try to challenge them to not look backward at what we’re doing because we’ve always done it this way and we’ll change a little bit, just throw in some cover crops and think everything is just going to be OK.”

Redfearn is an associate professor at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s Department of Agronomy and Horticulture. The main things he said his presentation would encompass were cover crop management, crop residue and grazing, and grazing licenses.

“There’s typically a lot of variation in the expertise,” Redfearn said of audience members at his talks. “Some of these guys in here have used cover crops for several years and they’ve been very successful. Some of them have used them and they haven’t performed quite as consistently as they might like, and then there’s another group in here that’s likely still on the end of the newbies that are still trying to think potentially about whether they want to start incorporating cover crops.”

Curt Becker, a projects manager with the Lower Elkhorn Natural Resources District, said he drove an hour from Dodge to learn more about cover crops and support a fellow district’s event.

“A lot of the districts support each other, Becker said, adding he attended to “basically, learn a little more about cover crops… It’s a hot topic.”

Dan Ruterbories works as a rangeland management specialist for Lower Loup NRD and drove two hours from Ord to come to learn more about cover crops. He said he was interested in learning more about the grazing aspect of cover crops for animal forage.

“I deal with cover crops, and I’ve never seen Dr. Beck before, so I’ve come to see what he has to say,” Ruterbories said. “(To) see if there’s anything new that I can pick up to help producers in our district.”

After the event, Taylor said about 100 producers were present, coming from as far as Broken Bow. She said Beck’s presentation was entertaining and his overview of the history of the dust-bowl was quite relatable to the Nebraska growers in attendance.

“Daren and Dwayne both gave some really nice overviews,” Taylor said. “Really sparked a lot of good questions from the producers, some really good dialogue.”

Eric Schucht is a reporter for The Columbus Telegram. Reach him via email at eric.schucht@lee.net.

Field editor for the Midwest Messenger.