Wednesday, April 1, 2015

I Am Indiana Agriculture: Don Villwock

By Sarah Mahan of This Farm Family's Life

Indiana Farm Bureau President Don Villwock farms 4,000 acres of corn, soybeans, seed soybeans and seed wheat in Knox County.  His ground is 100% no-till, which means it isn’t plowed or turned between plantings. That reduces soil erosion and aids in the preservation of soil nutrients.

Don has practiced no-tilling for 30 years and has also planted cover crops for almost that long.  Cover crops help build and improve soil in between planting of other crops.  He has also served as a Soil and Water Conservation District supervisor and hosted several soil health field days.  But he feels there is always “an opportunity to do more.” 

Don began practicing soil conservation in the 1970s by no-tilling double crop soybeans into wheat stubble.  This practice allows you to get two crops from one field in one year.  He says that no-tilling offers multiple advantages for his farm.  “For me, what got me started in no-till was the bottom line.  In the 70s, we were running on small margins and no-till allowed us to reduce our machinery costs and labor force while still maintaining the same yields.” 

On top of maintaining his yields, Don has won several awards in the National Corn Yield contest.  His conservation practices also get the attention of landlords who specifically seek out no-till farmers.
The no-till journey hasn’t always been easy.  “Planting corn after corn was a particular challenge,” Villwock says.  “It takes extra management, and we had to make sure we had a good stand row cleaner to allow us to meet our yield goals.” 

Don works closely with Barry Fisher of the Natural Resources Conservation Service to incorporate conservation practices on his farm.  “Barry is practical, pragmatic, and his experience on the land sets him apart.  He’s been with us every step of the way on the no-till journey.  The more we learn, the more we continue to improve.”

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