Thumb area farmer sees cover crop benefits

A Michigan farmer has spent 15 years keying in cover crop mixes for the commodities he grows.

Jeff Schluckbier farms 7,500 acres of corn, dry beans, sugarbeets, and wheat across Tuscola and Sanilac Counties with his cousins.

“We can get on it quicker in the springtime, when we get the big rains in the summertime instead of water sitting around for hours it sits around for minutes, and the tile works better,” he shares.

He tells Brownfield the goal is to improve water quality in the region and keep inputs in place.

“We’re hoping in the end that it leads to less fertilizer needed because things are staying in the soil,” he says.  “I think our crops, our trend line yields have been going up since we’ve been doing the conservation practices.”

The farm first started using oilseed radish in sugarbeets as a trap crop and to break up compaction.  Schluckbier says today he’s using multi-seed mixes that are specific to different crops.

“Following our wheat crop, we’ll go with sunflowers, we’ll go with a little oilseed radish, clover, and oats,” he explains.  “After dry beans, we go with an Austrian winter pea mix with some oats and then after sugarbeets and corn, we’ll just go straight rye.”

Schluckbier says advancements in technology, like drones or lasers, could also help improve their conservation practices while reducing inputs in the future.

Brownfield interviewed Schluckbier during the recent Conservation in Action tour in Michigan.

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