Lenawee Conservation District
Blaine Baker and his wife Barbara milk 520 cows and farm 2,000 acres in south central Michigan. “We have been total no-till since 2008,” Blaine told NACD, and “are 100 percent covered with annual rye, rye rape, or rye rape clover.” The Bakers have about three miles of buffers along their ditches – some of which were installed with assistance through CRP and CREP. He started using filter strips around 1990, and applies fertilizer using variable rate technology and plants according to yield monitoring data.
“We started out no-tilling using a multi coulter setup on the first corn planter, but that didn’t make it through the season,” Blaine explained. “Our second no-till planter was a double frame planter so we had the weight needed to penetrate the soil to get good seed placement.” Now he uses a planter that only has residue managers and spiked closing wheels. “We tried annual rye several years ago, but had trouble killing it in the spring so we quit using it. We now have that figured out and aren’t afraid to use it,” he said.
According to Blaine, the biggest challenge in using conservation practices is “just getting people to use no-till.”
“No-till has been around for a long time now, but just about everyone in the neighborhood that isn’t currently doing it will tell you about that one year, 12 or 16 years ago, that they used no-till and it was a failure.”
“I have told several people that if you aren’t going to no-till, don’t waste your money on cover crops,” he continued. “They won’t help reverse the current soil health trend they are experiencing if they are going to destroy all of the gain with tillage. As far as our operation, we are committed to no-till, so when we purchase a new piece of ground, it gets no-tilled.”