The Next Big Thing On The Farm

By Marc Strauss

August 19, 2011 Updated Aug 19, 2011 at 6:27 PM CDT

What might be the next big thing in farm equipment was on display near Lexington Friday. It can help both farmers and the environment.

Farmer Don Birky was looking for a better way to overseed his fields with winter cover crop - and do it while the corn is still there.

Since more wind farms are making it harder to perform aerial seeding and spraying Birky used hydraulics to achieve a similar effect, elevating his rogator high above the corn.

"The difference of this machine is that we can raise it up to 10 1/2 feet of clearance so we can go through standing corn, over the top of standing corn, to air seed cover crop or to apply urea nitrogen," explained Birky.

The customized rogator makes applications more evenly. The method may also encourage the planting of more cover crop, which helps reduce the potential risk of chemicals finding their way into to the water supply.

It's a simple but revolutionary idea that came to Birky after a lifetime of trying to invent useful machines and following a challenge from a friend.

"These kinds of rogators that are used for spraying typically weren't able to get enough height to get over a fully mature stand of corn. So we challenged Don to invent something that would and, by golly, he did." said Dave Bishop of the McLean County Soil and Water Consvervation District.

Birky has patented his elevated rogator and hopes to one day see it in mass production.

Its already helping with research to determine the ability of cover crops to retain nutrients at farms with tile drainage systems. The McLean County Soil and Water Conservation District received a $75,000 matching grant to facilitate the study.

"We know we have issues in the Gulf of Mexico and we know we have issues with agricultural runoff," said Bishop. "What would be the best way to address that? Wouldn't it be to have a solution that is both profitable to the farmer and beneficial to the public?"

And part of that solution might just lie in the ingenuity of a central Illinois farmer.