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Serving: IN

Nature Conservancy personnel visit Indiana farm during harvest

Nature Conservancy personnel visit Indiana farm during harvest
Marketing staff from all over the U.S. descend on central Indiana farm.

They came from Indianapolis, but also from far away cities, including Washington, D.C. They are members of the Nature Conservancy staff who specialize in marketing for their worldwide group. Their goal was to see agriculture in action.

The group knew where to come. They visited Mike Starkey, Brownsburg, on the day he and Jeff Starkey finished corn harvest. Many had never seen a combine, so it was a treat to not only see it, but see it running.

The main reason they came was to see conservation in action. Starkey showed them cover crops seeded this fall, either aerially or with a drill, and let them ask questions about why he invested in cover crops.

Tell the story: Mike Starkey, left, and Jared Chew, second from left, tell visitors about a water quality sampling project in a stream next to Starkey's land.

The questions were on point – they knew that somewhere along the line, he had to get a return for spending money on cover corps. He assured them that he gets a healthy return on his investment.

Another reason for visiting Starkey's farm is because it is one of only a handful of places in Indiana and surrounding states where the Natural Resources Conservation Service has an edge-of-field monitoring practice in place. Automatic water sampling equipment checks for nitrates and other nutrients in a stream in two places – as it enters Starkey's property in the watershed, and at the bottom end where it exits his property.

Related: See cover crops' impact on soil health with your own eyes

Jared Chew, NRCS district conservationist in Hendricks County, explained how the sampling equipment worked. He said the goal was to determine if spoon feeding crops and using no-till and cover crops could help slow down losses of nutrients through surface runoff and tile lines. The ongoing project will continue for several years, he says. The first data from the testing stations located in the stream was collected this spring. The testing is automatic and continues all the time, so that major rainfall events which might affect nutrient loss can be captured.

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