What We Believe
Technology is evolving all around us at a rapid pace and that includes in the world of agriculture. It seems as though every day a new tech company has come out with a new concept to try and revolutionize farming. While we are open and excited to all the changes coming, we try to maintain focus on the uses of technology where we can see a clear ROI for our operation. We especially see this in areas where we have the ability to harness our data in real time, and use it to then make informed, cost efficient decisions going forward. Examples of this would be RTK GPS technology, yield mapping, aerial imagery, and more. These tools allow us to overlay data to correlate trends in fields affecting our production, and solve how to address the issue going forward.
We primarily like to use a no-till approach to our crop production. No-till has been great in our area for a number of different reasons from improved soil structure, moisture retention, reduced time, reduced fuel, reduced labor etc. Every farm is different and every soil type is different so it is not a hard rule for us to utilize a no-till approach but more so a preference. On farms where tillage is needed to ammend some issues we will till that ground. The one exception to all of this is our cucumber production where it is required that we till the ground ahead of planting.
Fertility and Crop Health
Soil fertility and crop health are key to optimizing production. We currently utilize a zone style soil testing program to check nutrient levels on a 2 year rotation provided by Greene Crop Consulting. In season, we utilize a combination of tissue testing and aerial imagery to manage crop health and potentially make follow up applications of nutrients as needed. We are excited to begin a new path of soil tests known as the "Haney Test" which can indicate a "soil health score" of the living microbiome in the root zone of the plants. Soil health has become a hot topic as of late in agriculture and as we learn more about its importance we plan to continue to employ practices to increase the health of our soils.
Cover Crops & Sustainability
Continuing on from the last paragraph about soil heath, we believe it takes a systems approach to achieve healthier, higher producing soils, and it is an investment that will continue to show a return over time. A path we started down 3 years ago is planting cover crops on some of our acres to grow throughout the winter time, providing a host for the microbiology to thrive through the winter months. Other benefits from the cover crops includes reduced erosion, nutrient sequestering, adding carbon to the soil, weed suppression, and much more. We have tried cereal rye, annual rye, tillage radishes, oats, and red clover. Though they can be a challenge to manage, we continue to increase the acres we have cover crops planted on and are excited for the future benefits we will reap.
Another path we have started, is the spreading of livestock manure for our base fertility needs. Fortunately in Indiana we have an abundance of poultry producers. While the logistics can be a challenge, livestock manure is tremendous for the soil for a list of reasons and we feel it fits perfectly into our systems approach. These are steps in the right direction to reduce the use of commercial fertilizers and chemicals, thus leading to a more sustainable approach to crop production while also reducing our carbon footprint.