Get full access NOW to the most comprehensive, powerful and easy-to-use online resource for no-tillage practices. Just one good idea will pay for your subscription hundreds of times over.
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,”…