BED OF CLAY. Jim Brushaber brought in 4,000 yards of raw red clay from the basement excavations made for a couple of nearby homes. Since there was no available plant food in the compacted red clay, he used a V-ripper and scarifier to mix in 2 to 4 inches of black sandy loam. Through the winter freeze and thaw cycle, the clay shattered just like sugar. He then no-tilled soybeans back into the loose red clay with excellent results.

Happy Worms Mean More Profitable No-Till Yields

Michigan producer creates a nearly perfect no-till ecosystem with the help of night crawlers.

Jim Brushaber’s farm may not look different on the surface, but he invites you to dig a little deeper.

His mix of clay and sandy soils at Beaverton, Mich. (located 20 miles northwest of Midland) has been transformed over the past 50 years into a solid night crawler bed. This has reduced his total input costs to nearly zero, while improving his overall soil quality and raising a good crop of soybeans.

“I started 50 years ago with the initial planting and seeding of night crawlers,” Brushaber explains. “I was 16 years old when I started, and have built this up so today I have 93 acres of a solid night crawler bed.”

Brushaber normally raises 3 to 5 acres of sweet corn, with the remaining acreage in continuous soybeans. And his soil ecosystem, he says, is the best its ever been.

“Quality wise, this is an extremely slow-moving ecosystem,” Brushaber says.

Worms tend to move slowly, yet consistently. And they develop the soil.

“You’ll eventually reach a plateau where your soil has excellent quality,” he says. “I’ve found that my soils have built up some resistance to disease — not 100%, but I do control disease. I have no nematode concerns and my soybeans have no root rot or leaf blight problems.”

Brushaber says his soybeans have no problem with nitrogen fixation due to the high carbon content of his soils.

“The plants don’t have to make it, and the nodules turn pure white,” he says. “That’s when you…

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