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Serving: IN

Why Pay Big Price For Land and Let it Wash Away?

Why Pay Big Price For Land and Let it Wash Away?
Veteran farmer questions wisdom of letting valuable land erode.

Ray McCormick just shakes his head when he drives through parts of Indiana. He knows that land is still selling for $10,000 to $14,000 per acre in many areas, including his own Knox County. He farms in the White River and Wabash River bottoms, plus along some higher land, near Vincennes.

"It doesn't make sense to me why you would pay $10,000 to $14,000 per acre for land and then just let it wash away by not taking care of it," McCormick says. "Yet I've seen plenty of examples where it happens, and continues to happen."

Related: NRCS Land Use Update Shows More Cropland, Less Erosion

Believes in cover crops: Ray McCormick seeds cover crops off his combine heads to get them planted as timely as he can.

McCormick doesn't intend for you to see soil erosion carrying away valuable topsoil on land that he farms. Besides farming in Knox County, he also farms some land across the Wabash in Illinois.

"We've decided that instead of paying a big price and buying more land, we're going to do our best to take care of what we have," he says. "We want to build it back up and improve soil health, so it can be as productive as it can."

McCormick has no-tilled for nearly 30 years, and no-tills as much as possible today. He's found that cover crops are the next step to improving soil health and increasing the value of his farmland. The cover crops improve soil health, he says.

McCormick was one of the first to begin seeding cover crops off his combine heads, first off his corn head, and then the next year, off his grain platform.

"Timing is everything when it comes to cover crops," he says. "We have a longer growing season on southwestern Indiana than other parts of the state, but we still need to get cover crops planted on time.

"Seeding off the head lets me know that the crop is seeded when the combine pulls out of the field. My son isn't tied up running the drill to get them in, and can concentrate on running semis and handling getting the grain away from the combine instead.

Related: Soil Erosion Remains Corn Belt Problem

"And if I'm in bed that night and hear it start raining, I don't have to worry about wondering if it will stop so I can get the cover crop planted. Instead I can smile and know that the seed is out there, and that the rain we're getting will help it germinate and come up.

"It's all about pulling carbon and nitrogen out of the air, and scavenging and holding onto nutrients. It's also about holding onto the soil. I would rather do what I can to improve and increase the value of my soil, rather than watch it wash away. As it goes it carries valuable nutrients and a lot of value with it," he concludes.

Thinking about a cover crop? Start with developing a plan. Download the FREE Cover Crops: Best Management Practices report today, and get the information you need to tailor a cover crop program to your needs.

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