Hamilton County Soil and Water Conservation District
Rodney Rulon began farming full time after graduating from Purdue University with a B.S. (in 1994) and M.S. (in 1996) in agricultural systems management. Rulon Enterprises is a fourth-generation family farming operation run by brothers Ken and Roy Rulon, cousin Rodney Rulon, and Roy’s sons Nick and Neal Rulon. The Rulon Farm started off as 80 acres in 1869 and has since grown to include over 6,400 acres of no-till corn and soybeans across central Indiana. The Rulon family operation also includes a farrow-to-finish hog operation, called Bryant Premium Pork LLC, a Beck’s Hybrids seed dealership, The Peer Network – a subscription-based agriculture discussion website, and a custom drainage design and installation business.
For decades, the Rulon Family has held the belief that conservation work provides tremendous environmental, societal, and agronomic benefits. Because of these benefits and the economic advantages of using conservation practices, the Rulons have continued to use a no-till system since 1989. After achieving what they found to be a good economic system of production using no-till and strategic nutrient management (starting with a 1-acre grid, GIS/VRT system in 1995), the Rulons began to pursue “next level” soil health benefits by incorporating cover crops (in 2003) and soil amendments such as Gypsum into their system.
Rulon Enterprises is also engaged in a multi-year, plot- and strip-based experiment that has helped the family identify specific benefits of no-till, nutrient management, cover crops, and other conservation practices. “The future looks very bright as new technologies allow for modified cover-crops and nutrition management systems,” Rodney said. And after many years of experimenting, the Rulons have cultivated a highly sustainable production system that has excellent yields, minimal environmental impact, and resilient, healthy soils with high organic matter content.
On the Rulon Farm: Conventional vs. No-Till and Cover Crops
1. REDUCED EQUIPMENT COST = $40.70/acre
2. REDUCED FERTILIZER COST = $25.14/acre CC
3. INCREASED YIELD = 7.1 BU x $5 = $35.50/acre-CC
+ Greater drought tolerance, less erosion, and fewer environmental impacts
= $101.34/acre/year (multiplied by 6,000 acres = $608,040/year)
“Much has been learned, but there is still a lot to figure out to optimize many aspects of the soil health,” Rodney told NACD. “While we have had trouble establishing stands of cover crops and farming heavy and wet soils in our area (where plowing ordinarily best practice), we continue to push to find the optimum balance between sustainability and building soil health with the economics of production agriculture. We believe strongly that when all costs are considered and addressed the best environmental solution will also be the best agronomic solution in the long term.”
Rodney currently serves as chairman of the Hamilton County Soil and Water Conservation District board and is an active supporter of his church, Boy Scouts, and 4-H. Rulon Enterprises received the No-Till Farmer Magazine/Syngenta National No-Till Innovator Award in 2011 in recognition of Rodney’s efforts to improve soil health and the economics of conservation production practices. The family also received the ASA Regional and National Conservation Legacy Award in 2012 and a long list of state and local awards for their continued to work to promote no-till as a sustainable and responsible conservation practice.