The first time Mike Starkey tried no-till it didn't work out. The right equipment, right hybrids and varieties and right methods were still a few years away. If Starkey is anything, he's determined. He's certainly not a quitter. The next time he tried it, he got it right and he's been doing it ever since.
Now he's added cover crops to the mix as part of his normal farming program. "We planted into a good stand of crimson clover in May and it really made my day to see how thick that stand was," he says.
Starkey is hoping crimson clover will add nitrogen to the soil once it breaks down later in the season. He also uses other cover crops.
Perhaps most impressive Starkey and neighbor Jack Maloney, also named as a Master Farmer along with the Starkeys last week, has worked for eight years with Bob Barr, an environmental scientist at IUPUI in Indianapolis.
Barr became interested in what was coming off the watershed feeding into Eagle Creek watershed. Both Maloney and Starkey, and especially Starkey, have a good deal of land that feeds into the reservoir.
Barr has been impressed by the positive attitude and cutting-edge mentality that both men have taken in understanding that they need to do what they can to help cut down on sediment and nutrients exiting their land that can wind up in the Reservoir.
They also cooperated in a watershed project based around the Eagle Creek reservoir and headed by Harold Thompson, formerly with the Natural Resources Conservation Service.
Starkey is on the verge of entering into a long-term agreement with Barr through grants to do edge-of-field monitoring, which will further document how specific farming practices can impact and lower the amount of nutrients leaving farm fields. Look for more on that project later.
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