Habitat & Conservation  |  03/18/2021

Where are they now? A look back at the 2019 Precision Ag Farmers of the Year


Checking in the with Wisecups and their strategy for managing profits and conservation alike

It has been two years since Lee and Arthur Wisecup from western Iowa were recognized as the 2019 Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever Precision Ag Farmers of the Year, presented by John Deere.  The award was presented in February of that year during the annual Precision Ag Workshop which was held in conjunction with National Pheasant Fest and Quail Classic in Schaumburg, IL.  The award is to recognize farmers who are using their precision ag data to focus on strategic land management practices that increase profitability in a way that also benefits wildlife habitat, soil health and water quality.  We were curious as to what changes have occurred on the Wisecup Farm in the last 24 months, so we sat down with them recently to learn more about how they are continually adapting with new management practices, new equipment, and new technology.

The relationship with the Wisecups and Pheasants Forever began with a discussion about profitability and conservation opportunities.  The Wisecups were interested in harnessing their precision ag data to deliver additional value to their operation and Pheasants Forever was interested in demonstrating that laser-focused wildlife habitat can improve farm profitability.  The result of that partnership was a strategic enrollment of more than 240 acres of perennial cover on multiple farms and fields.  This year will represent the fourth year since the establishment of perennial cover within their farming operation.  As a result of their targeted conservation efforts, the Wisecups are already seeing increases to their Actual Production History (APH), less challenges with water management, and as a bonus it has boosted the local pheasant population!                

One of the most conspicuous updates is that the Wisecups have transitioned from a conventional-till farming practice to a nearly 100 percent no-till farming operation.  The change occurred in part due to the inclement weather in the spring of 2019; as a result, Lee and Arthur made the most of their prevent plant acres by investing in a John Deere 1990 Air Seeder to plant cover crops.  They have experimented with oilseed sunflower, buckwheat, radish, sunn hemp, sorghum, mung bean, crimson clover, cereal rye, rapeseed, triticale and barley over the last two years.  The plan is to continue utilizing cover crops and learn how they best fit in their corn and soybean crop rotation.  They have also refined their nitrogen fertilizer usage by moving away from fall anhydrous to 100 percent liquid nitrogen in the growing season.  Arthur specifically mentioned that they have added AutoTracTM RowSenseTM feelers to their John Deere self-propelled sprayer to aid and improve their ability to apply in-season nitrogen to the corn crop.  Additionally, the Wisecups have transitioned all their precision ag hardware to John Deere technology.  Finally, Lee indicated that they had recently updated their combine to an S-Series John Deere and paired it with a 16 row corn head.

The Wisecups have also continued to increase how they utilize their precision ag software.  With the John Deere Operations Center being used for their core field and data management, Arthur is also utilizing Granular Insights for farm management and marketing purposes.  Recently, they have also signed on for a three-year program working with the Land O’Lakes Truterra program to learn more about opportunities that may exist with carbon sequestration markets in the future.  

Having understood the benefits that targeted enrollment into the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) is having on their farm operation, Lee shared that they are in the process of enrolling more of their problematic acres into a new CRP practice.  More specifically, Lee was referring to the CP43 Prairie Strips program where they intend on placing them next to waterways and along field edges to reduce nutrient losses from their farms.  The plan includes adding 80 plus acres of prairie strips across more than a dozen different parcels of land.  As the Wisecups continue to improve the efficiency of their farming operation and increase their land stewardship, they are also interested in investigating new opportunities that diversify and strengthen their cash flow.  Specific interests include finding additional cash crops that fit in their farming operation and new markets that create and expand their sales prospects.

We thank the Wisecups for spending the time to update the PF & QF Precision Team on their farming operation.  Turning red acres green is a mission that they have taken to the next level, and Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever looks forward to supporting them in every way possible in 2021 and beyond.

For more information on ways you can start to build new partnerships, and strengthen current ones, through Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever’s precision ag and conservation work, be sure to check out our precision ag website: https://pheasantsforever.org/precision-ag