INTRODUCTION

This Indiana farmer was featured in our recent report, Conservation’s Impact on the Bottom Line. He has requested that his financial information is reported anonymously, so he will be referred to only by his state and ‘Indiana Farmer.’ Learn more about findings from that report here.

Farmer Profile

  • Farm size: 5,800 acres
  • Crops grown: corn, soybeans, seed beans, wheat
  • Conservation practices: no-till, strip-till, cover crops
  • Conservation goals: reduce overall tillage, improve soil structure while reducing machinery and overhead costs

Indiana Farmer sees cover crops as a long-term investment, but recognizes that timing and logistics can be challenging. That’s one of the reasons he has prioritized data collection efforts with SHP.

“The big thing we were interested in was trying out strip-tillage and cover crops. We didn’t want to just jump into it and go full bore. We wanted to see how things worked for us, rather than just spending a lot of money up front.” – Indiana Farmer

About the Conservation System

  • Started working with strip-till, no-till and cover crops three years ago
  • Evaluating cover crop management before expanding to additional acres
  • Began experimenting with cover crops on 25 acres, but have expanded to 5% of their ground
  • Cover crops are targeted to acres that could benefit the most from erosion control
  • Partnering with SHP on a 70-acre strip trial comparing conventional tillage, strip-tillage with cover crops, and no-till with cover crops

profitability impacts

With only three years of experience with cover crops, Indiana Farmer is still identifying the best recipe for his farm and weather conditions. Figure 1 denotes Indiana Farmer’s crop budgets for corn fields with conventional tillage, strip-till without cover crops, and strip-till with cover crops.

While he does have cost savings from conservation tillage, as compared to his conventionally tilled fields, he has not yet found the input savings seen by experienced cover croppers. Indiana Farmer pays $30 per acre for his cover crop seed, higher than most farmers in our study, and has made one extra burndown pass on both corn and soybeans to terminate cover crops and clean up the seedbed.

As Indiana Farmer tests different cover cropping methods, he is financially supported by USDA cost-share payments of $10.80 per acre for cover crops through the Environmental Quality Incentive Program (EQIP).

Indiana Farmer 2019 crop budgets

Indiana Farmer is working directly with SHP staff to identify ways to improve his cover crop system and save costs. One of the biggest adaptations he is considering is moving from aerial application (which costs $10/acre) to a more direct method, either through a high-boy applicator to get the seed directly on the ground, a fertilizer spreader truck, or through a high-speed disk and box. In addition to cost savings, Indiana Farmer believes a change in seeding method could also increase stand count and plant vigor, ultimately increasing nitrogen uptake and minimizing nutrient loss to the environment.

Want to learn more about conservation practices and farm finances?

Dig into our report Conservation’s Impact on the Farm Bottom Line!