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No-Till And Strip-Till: The Best Of Both Worlds

Precision technology, cover crops and innovative equipment are helping Indiana no-tiller and strip-tiller Mike Shuter and sons get the most out of two different conservation-tillage systems.

The 1980s were difficult times for farmers, and it was no different for Mike Shuter and his family. Hoping to make due with less, they looked to no-till to reduce fuel, labor and expenses, with the hope of maintaining yields.

“We eliminated the field cultivators, plows and the big-horsepower tractors, and we committed to making no-till work,” he says.

Today, Shuter Sunset Farms near Frankton, Ind., is a thriving fourth-generation operation where Mike and his sons Brian and Patrick raise 3,000 acres of strip-tilled corn and no-tilled soybeans, along with Red Poll and Red Angus beef cattle and hogs.

Even though the Shuters are long-term no-tillers and strip-tillers, they’re taking steps to improve soil health by seeding cover crops into standing corn and soybeans.

Having watched other farmers use cover crops for a few years, the Shuters added covers to their own farm 3 years ago to build better soil structure, improve nutrient-use efficiency and reduce nitrogen costs. Their goal is to have healthier soils that stand up to the effects of drenching rains or drought.

Mike has already seen a big payoff in terms of soil structure and water infiltration by reducing tillage and seeding cover crops. He’s sometimes out shelling corn a day or two earlier than his conventional-tillage neighbors due to better ground conditions. Some problem fields are becoming more productive, too, with little tillage.

“We had one strip-tilled field this past spring where we had cover crops and didn’t have a dead spot in the field,”…

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John Dobberstein

John Dobberstein is senior editor of No-Till Farmer magazine and the e-newsletter Dryland No-TillerHe previously covered agriculture for the Tulsa World and worked for daily newspapers in Chicago, Milwaukee and St. Joseph, Mich. He graduated with a B.A. in journalism and political science from Central Michigan University.

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Jack Zemlicka

Jack Zemlicka is the Technology Editor for No-Till Farmer. He covers precision farming practices, products and trends, which can improve efficiency and productivity for no-till farmers.

He joined Lessiter Publications Ag Division in 2012 and also serves as managing editor of Strip-Till Farmer.

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