More than 500 soil and water conservation district supervisors and friends of soil conservation will be on hand when the newest crop of Indiana' Master Farm Conservationists are recognized in Indianapolis next month. The recognition, along with announcement of Conservation Farmers of the Year, will come during the banquet of the Indiana Association of Soil and Water Conservation Districts annual meeting.
Soon to be two decades old, the Master Farm Conservationist recognition honors those who have pursued conservation measure on their farm during their entire careers. This year's class of winners has more than 200 years of experience in dealing with and overcoming soil erosion and water quality challenges. The same group claims nearly 150 years experience collectively in no-tilling crops.
The Master Farm Conservationist award is sponsored by Indiana Prairie Farmer, IASWCD, Natural Resources Conservation Service, the Division of Soil Conservation within ISDA and Purdue Cooperative Extension. Winners are nominated by SWCDs, then selected by a panel of judges.
The Conservation Farmer of the Year awardees will be presented plaques sponsored by Indiana Farm Bureau, Inc. While there has been some duplication in winners over the years, that award recognizes those who are currently doing a great job, or trying something unique, in the area of conservation tillage. They tend to be younger farmers who haven't been practicing no-till or other conservation measures for as long a time as the Master Farm Conservationists.
This year's Master Farm Conservationist winners include Dale Kirtley, Economy; Robert Nielsen, North Judson; Jack and Ruthann Robbins, Carlisle, Christian Rudolph, Petersburg and Melvin Sermersheim, Huntingburg.
Kirtley was the first farmer to no-till drill soybeans in Wayne County. He was active in taking care of the Wayne County no-till comparison plot which the Wayne County SWCD maintained for nearly 20 years.
Nielsen farms sandy soils and mucks. Wind erosion is public enemy number one if soils aren't covered, especially during the winter and spring. He converted to no-till many years ago. His example led his son-in-law, who now operates the farm, to continue with no-till.
The Robbins operate a grain farm in Sullivan County. They've found that a combination of no-till and cover crops when necessary helps them limit soil erosion. Some of their soils are rolling and subject to soil erosion.
Rudolph farms ridge tops and side slopes in Pike County. Some of his slopes are so steep that he still no-tills on the contour. It's a practice he learned from his father, the late Austin Rudolph.
Sermersheim farms some fields so step that just walking up the slope could take your breath away. Yet one of those fields yields an average of 120 bushels of corn per acre. It hasn't seen a moldboard plow since 1964. Some years it was in pasture or set-aside, but it's been cropped successfully by no-till for many years now.
Learn more about these successful no-tillers in the January '09 issue of Indiana Prairie Farmer.