This week Conservation Cropping Systems Initiative farmer Mike Shuter shared the pieces of his systems approach to soil health during a field day at Shuter Sunset Farms in Frankton, located in Madison County. There is a lot of innovating on his 30-year no-till and strip-till operation, and that includes cover crop seeding methods and equipment modifications.
“We’re looking for better soil health, something that we can really get a soil that will withstand these weather extremes that we’re starting to see, something that will infiltrate water better, and something that will handle things better when it’s dry,” he explained. “I think if we can build the soil health, get our organic matter levels up through what we’re doing with cover crops and no-till and strip-till, then I think we can improve the soil health.”
Shuter points to a normally wet field as evidence that the system is working. He told HAT that growing annual rye grass, radishes and clover last fall has kept the wet spots dry this year while every other field nearby has holes from excess water.
“We took the spray tank off and put on a different boom. We put an air seeder box on the Miller and then hoses out to the boom to run drops out there. We’ve got a 90 foot boom that we’re seeding with and we’ve got drops in between each row that spreads the cover crop seed in between each row. We developed that 3 years ago.”
They also developed a 24 row nitrogen bar to spray 24 rows at a time, a major time saver.
“So we’re on the same traffic pattern, but more so so we can get over the acres we need to get over at that time of the year,” he said.
The toolbar is mounted on a sprayer equipped with AgLeader OptRx and InCommand systems to variable rate nitrogen based upon on-the-fly measurements. Shuter plans to make the nitrogen bar available in the marketplace this winter along with a seeder using the same bar concept.
The “Bag to Bin” field day was a collaboration of the CCSI, Madison County Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD) and the Purdue Cooperative Extension Service, the Lilly Creek and Little Duck Watershed Projects, and the Upper White River Watershed Alliance, with help from Indiana’s corn and soybean checkoff organizations.