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DES MOINES — For the past 43 years, Maurice and Pam Johnson have been farming in Mitchell and Floyd counties.

The sixth-generation farmers, along with 65 other farmers, were recently honored at the Iowa State Fair with an Iowa Farm Environmental Leaders Award, which recognizes their contribution to healthy soil and water quality.

Pam Johnson, who has been active in corn promotion both on the state and national level, was National Corn Growers president from 2012-2013. Today, she is the first women to ever serve on the Maizall International Maze Alliance, a voice for corn growers around the world.

“Many of the issues we have here in the states are the same issues corn growers have in other areas of the world,” she said. “We help bring a voice to those issues.” She gave the keynote address to 3,000 people who attended the World Trade Organization in July.

Maurice Johnson, who began his farming career in 1971, said they use no-till on all of their soybeans and strip till most of their corn.

In September, he said they seeded oats for a cover crop in their yet-to-be harvested soybean fields, which will result in savings on chemicals next spring and keeping nutrients for future use.

The Johnsons started using cover crops about seven years ago, doing 100 acres the first year. Today, about 70 percent of their fields have cover crops, resulting in weed suppression benefits.

“There are lots of programs to help subsidize the cost of sewing cover crops,” he said. “This year, our sons have bought a drill so we can drill in the seed in bean fields after the crop has been harvested.”

The couple has been using no-till soybeans for about 15 years, he said, noting they also use strip till between rows of corn, as well as buffer strips along creeks and sinkholes, trees for windbreaks and pollinator strips for butterflies.

“The other day when I went down the lane, it was full of butterflies,” Pam Johnson said.

The Johnsons also added a shallow wetland for wildlife, which attracts trumpeter swans when they migrate.

“We are implementing all these conservation practices to help the next generation of farmers,” she said. “There are a lot of other people out there who are also noticing the benefits of these practices.

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Steven Thompson is a correspondent for the Mitchell County Press-News, a North Iowa Media Group publication.

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