Faribault County farmer finds cover crops to be 'worth every penny'

Tim Perrizo raises corn, soybeans and sweetcorn in Prescott Township, and planted no-till soybeans for 20-plus years before trying cover crops.

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Faribault County SWCD Co-program Administrator Nathan Carr visited with Eric Volsen on the Kiester Township site where the Volsens hosted a field day in September 2022.
Contributed by Ann Wessel BWSR

In Faribault County, 13 farmers incorporated 800 acres of cover crops into their corn-and-soybean operations for the first time with an incentive from a demonstration grant and technical support from soil and water conservation district staff.

A $55-an-acre payment available through a cover crop demonstration grant the Minnesota Board of Water and Soil Resources awarded to the Faribault County Soil & Water Conservation District offset the risk of trying something new, according to a Faribault County SWCD news release.

The incentive targeted hilly, erosion-prone fields — mostly in the southeastern part of the county.

Tim Perrizo was one of the 13 farmers who took advantage of the opportunity. He used the incentive to pay for custom aerial cover crop seeding on the 70-acre field he enrolled.

Tim Perrizo farms in Faribault County, where he has made cover crops part of his management.
Contributed by Tim Perrizo

In 2022, he planted cover crops on the entire 750 acres he farms — some of it on his own. 550 acres were with assistance from a three-year Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) sign-up through the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service.


Increasing cover crop establishment and related tillage practices to encourage first-time experimenters and benefit water quality was the goal of BWSR’s $1 million, Clean Water Fund-backed 2020 Cover Crop Demonstration Grants Initiative. The Faribault County SWCD was one of five SWCDs to receive part of that grant. Other recipients were the East Otter Tail, Stearns County, Root River and Traverse SWCDs. The SWCDs offered financial incentives, technical assistance and education.

“We’ve seen a lot of erosion in the springtime after snowmelt where there’s no living residue. We’re a corn-and-soybean county, and when the corn and soybeans aren’t growing, we do see a lot of erosion. Cover crops would be able to fix that issue,” said Faribault County SWCD Co-program Administrator Nathan Carr. “The clean water benefit of cover crops would be holding back phosphorus and nitrogen, stopping erosion from flowing into the water bodies.”

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The Faribault County SWCD staff used its portion of a BWSR Clean Water Fund-backed Cover Crop Demonstration Grants Initiative award to offer farmers incentives for trying cover crops and related soil health practices. On Nov. 1, 2022, cover crops emerged from corn stubble in one of the enrolled fields.
Contributed by Ann Wessel BWSR

Because the pandemic suppressed its education and outreach efforts, the Faribault County SWCD received a one-year extension on the three-year grant that expired Dec. 2022. From its own budget, the SWCD offered the additional year of incentive payments to producers who had signed on to the three-year trial. Nine agreed, enrolling 450 acres.

“We were asking for them to do multiple species of cover crops, and we were also asking for a change in practice. Most likely that’s a tillage practice — $55 an acre should be (enough) to pay for someone to do custom strip-till,” Carr said of work related to the initial and extended incentive payments.

Perrizo was among those who signed on for a fourth year.

“I just liked what I was seeing, and I was able to manage the planting. The yield of the crops remained the same. I can cut back on some herbicide in the spring by using the cover crop on my soybeans,” Perrizo said. “I was able to save money on herbicide.”

A third-generation farmer, Perrizo, 64, raises corn, soybeans and sweetcorn in Prescott Township with his son, Jaydan, and wife, Sue. He’d planted no-till soybeans for 20-plus years before trying cover crops. For the first couple of years, he fine-tuned cover-crop planting methods and chemical application.

Perrizo recalled standing in a waist-high winter rye cover crop that first year and wondering how the soybeans could grow through the mass. Three weeks after chemical termination, he said the beans were 8 inches tall and the field was weed-free.


“That’s just fantastic weed control, and the beans don’t mind coming up through green matter and the dying rye. They seem to thrive with that kind of a ground cover,” Perrizo said.

He expanded the practice to another 80 acres with support in 2020 and 2022 from a Minnesota Pollution Control Agency Environmental Protection Agency grant available through the Greater Blue Earth River Basin Alliance.

“I will continue to plant cover crops after the government money (ends). I’ve had enough years now, it’s showed me it does work and it’s worth every penny,” Perrizo said. “It’s proved to me that it’s economically feasible.”

On lighter soils, Perrizo said cover crops’ organic matter will help to improve soil health. On heavier ground where cover crops take up excess moisture in the spring, he aims to improve drainage through less tillage.

“I’m hoping to see water infiltration in soils and just continue controlling the wind and the water erosion,” Perrizo said. “The wind erosion and the water erosion — those are big factors. You drive by my fields, and you don’t have the dirt in the ditches from wind erosion. I collect all the dirt from my neighbors.”

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