BROWNSBURG, Ind. — Two Hendricks County farmers know the
importance of conservation and have been practicing it for years.
Mike Starkey has had no-till beans and no-till corn since
2000. In addition to that, 2,800 acres have had cover crop for the past 10
Jack Maloney no-till farms 2,700 acres of corn and soybeans
and uses annual ryegrass cover crops.
Both farmers have received recognition for their
conservation efforts and have hosted different events, including field days,
tours and meetings. Most recently, a farm tour was held for attendees of the
two-day National Association of Conservation Districts’ Soil Health Forum and
Visitors were able to hear about the importance of cover
crops, healthy soil and precision farming.
Healthy soil means living soil and cover crops are a part of
that, Starkey said.
Although no-till is the foundation, it is not enough. Cover
crops are needed, Starkey said.
“The hardest part is trying to educate neighbors on what I’m
doing,” he said. “Cover crops make them nervous, but when I explain it, they
Starkey showed the different kind of cover crops that he has
tried to mix together. Although he changes the cover crop mixture, his goal is
to stay below $30 per acre.
Starkey started with 20 acres of cover crop and slowly
increased it. The process is trial and error to see what works best, he said.
“There will be bumps in the road, no doubt about it, but
that’s part of it,” he said.
AJ Adkins, with Starkey Farms, showed visitors the equipment
used to farm. He showed the tour both a 16-row and 32-row planter used to plant
corn and how it is used for precision agriculture.
Adkins sets the planter up the way he wants it to perform.
He also takes parts of machines and puts them together to get each machine to
run just how he wants it to run.
“I’m always trying something new,” he said.
The two farms also are located in the Eagle Creek Watershed,
which is part of Indianapolis drinking water system. Many years ago, because of
the watershed, researchers at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis
noticed the farms didn’t suffer from flooding or runoff.
Because of this, the farms assisted the researchers and
today still have an ongoing relationship with the universities in field
monitoring. Water coming out of drainage tiles is collected in a bio-swale,
analyzed and filtered before release into the stream.
Both farmers plan to continue to tweak their practices as
they continue their conservation efforts.