Harvesting dollars and sense from soil health

North Carolina farmer Russell Hedrick is trying to make money in agriculture.

That’s one of the reason’s why the first-generation farmer, who started with just 30 acres in 2012, believes in farming for profit, not max yield. Fast forward to 2018, and Hedrick’s operation has grown to more than 800 acres while his crop inputs continue to shrink thanks to a commitment to soil health. His strategy includes no-till, using cover crops, grazing livestock, and making the most of precision technology. He is also a big proponent of direct consumer marketing including grains-to-glass artisan spirits.

Earlier this month, Hedrick shared his management strategies with farmers attending the Innovative Farmers of Ontario annual conference at London, Ont.

Hedrick admits what he’s doing on his farm in North Carolina won’t work seamlessly on a farm in southern Ontario but the practices can be modified, he says, because the principles of soil health apply in Canada just as they do in North Carolina.

The results of Hedrick’s soil health commitment are impressive; his corn yields now reach 318 bu/ac and soybean yields are 20 to 30 per cent higher than the county average. He’s has also reduced fertilizer costs by more than $70/ac and uses 50 percent less herbicide.

In this interview with RealAgriculture’s Bernard Tobin, Hedrick discusses how he’s regenerating many of the acres he farms with the help of cover crops and livestock. He shares what cover crops work on his farm and how he makes planting corn into a green cover crop with help from a Yetter crimper and roller  — it’s mounted to the corn planter and delivers up to 95% termination of the cereal rye cover crop.

Hedrick also discusses how he combats nutrient stratification typically associated with no-till; what’s in his “home run” cover crop mix; and how he effectively uses sugar to control pests in soybeans.

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