At the Indiana State Fair last week, 47 farms received the River-Friendly Farmer Award. The annual award recognizes farmers for their implementation of conservation practices, like no-till and cover crops.
Pat Bittner was one of the award winners last week. His situation is unique in that he’s not a full-time farmer. He works in IT during the day and is a regenerative ag farmer when he needs to be on his dad’s farm in Vanderburgh County.
“Our first year, after I went to the National No-Till Conference, I came home and told my dad I want to plant the whole farm in cereal rye after we harvested. That’s when my dad said, ‘Well, we can do that.’ He said, ‘I’m going to put a sign out in the barn, just in case. If it successful, I’ll take credit for being leading edge. And if it doesn’t work, I’ll put it down to the end of our half mile lane as the farm is under new management.’”
It must have been successful because they expanded on the practice just a year later.
“We went from a monocrop cereal rye cover crop to the next year I went to about a 5-way mix. Ever since then, we’ve been planting 8 to 12-way mixes. We also jumped into planting green after the second year.”
Bittner says there are several reasons why he likes to plant green, which is planting directly into your cover crop.
“One, we want to get the full value of the cover crop that we’re spending money on to plant in the fall. Secondly, we bought an I&J crimper and we crimp after we plant. That lays that residue down on the ground, and I think that’s important for several reasons. We’re trying to preserve moisture, so it cuts down on evaporation, keeps the ground cooler which is healthier for the cash crop that you’re planting.”
He also says it helps with voles. You can hear much more from Bittner in the HAT Soil Health Podcast below.