August 19, 2022

Soil conservation trends upward

INDIANAPOLIS — Indiana farmers planted an estimated 1.5 million acres of overwinter living covers in the late fall of 2021, matching the record 1.5 million acres planted in 2020, according to the Indiana State Department of Agriculture.

As a result of conservation practices, it is estimated that 2.1 million tons of sediment was prevented from entering Indiana’s waterways. That’s enough sediment to fill more than 597 Olympic-size swimming pools.

Overwintering covers also prevented 5.1 million pounds of nitrogen and over 2.5 million pounds of phosphorus from entering Indiana’s waterways.

State total living cover estimates:

• Total living cover in all crops — 1.5 million acres.

• Living cover in corn — 550,000 acres.

• Living cover in soybeans — 780,000 acres.

Kurt Theurer is one Hoosier farmer seeing the benefits of conservation practices such as no-till and cover crops.

Theurer farms 1,650 acres in Jay County, evenly split between corn and soybeans. He has no-till farmed and planted cover crops on approximately 400 of his acres for more than a decade and transitioned the remaining acres after he started farming them five years ago.

“I did a small trial at my home farm, and the weeds that I had, the resistant weeds, just went from crazy to barely any after I ran a cover crop,” Theurer said.

“The next spring, that soil was just a whole totally different soil type. You could tell in the field the next spring right where we quit our oats.

“We’re starting to get a lot of earthworms again. We’re starting to get a lot of root penetration down through our hardpans with all our cover crops. And my organic material that I’m building, I was only at like 1.5% organic material when I started and I’m like 2.5% to 3% now. So, I feel that I’m working in the right direction.”

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Leader Takeaways

“By increasing our cover crop practices each year, we are ensuring that we provide healthier soil for the next generation. I am proud of the collaborative efforts being done by our farmers and leaders in Indiana agriculture.”

Suzanne Crouch, secretary of agriculture and rural development

Indiana Lieutenant Governor

“Indiana farmers continue to help lead the way through their dedication to conservation farming. The work being done by farmers throughout the state to promote soil health through no-till farming and the planting of cover crops will have positive impacts for generations to come.”

Jerry Raynor, Indiana state conservationist

Natural Resources Conservation Service

“As recent surveys have proved, soil conservation remains an integral part of how Hoosier farmers care for their land and the work they do. With this increasing trend of cover crop acres and soil health, future generations are in trustworthy hands.”

Bruce Kettler, director

Indiana State Department of Agriculture

Erica Quinlan

Erica Quinlan

Field Editor