Pictured Above: 30 YEAR CONTINUOUS NO-TILL CORN. Jon Spreng, general manager of the Loudonville Farmer’s Equity Co. (left), and Bill Haddad (right) check plant stands in a field that’s been in continuous no-till corn for 30 years. A cereal rye cover crop is chopped after it heads out as feed for the farm’s 700-cow dairy.
TO MAKE no-till successful and to encourage expansion in Ohio, Bill Haddad believed in taking total responsibility for all aspects of growers making the change to less tillage. When no-till fields looked ugly and the reduced tillage concept didn’t seem to be working, the now retired former Chevron and Valent sales representative was never one to blame the problems on the seed company, farm equipment firm, ag chemical company or other educators and suppliers.
Instead, the Danville Ohio, based sales representative did whatever it took to make no-till work in every situation. Not all educators and suppliers were willing to take this responsibility on as a personal mission, but this career-long belief definitely worked for Haddad.
“We got a lot of no-till going over the years in Ohio, but in many cases, a farmer would call and say he had a poor stand of corn,” Haddad says. “Or he wanted to know what he’s going to do with all the slugs or new weed issues. These farmers new to no-till needed solutions.
“If you didn’t come up with the answers, they’d revert back to using what they knew best, which was conventional tillage. In my early days in Ohio in the 1970s and 1980s, no-till was brand new with a few problems and unknown fears, which made it easier for some growers to slide back to more intensive tillage.”
During his 46-year pesticide sales career in New Jersey and Ohio, Haddad conducted hundreds of farmer and dealer meetings, plot tours, field days and one-on-one-gatherings with farmers considering or already using no-till. Because of his intense enthusiasm for promoting no-till, someone early on came up with the nickname “No-Till Bill,” which soon became part of his personal signature over the years.
"When promoting no-till, you need to spend lots of time with farmers…"
“Farmers want to deal with an individual who will stand behind his or her suggestions and recommendations,” he says. “When promoting no-till, you need to spend time with farmers and it’s important for them to see how the results will affect their bottom line.”
6 INCHES OF CEREAL RYE LEFT GROWING. After chopping cereal rye for forage in this 30-year continuous corn field, the remaining 6 inches of cover crop growth and weeds are controlled with 1 quart of Roundup and ¾ quart Lexar per acre.
Yet not everyone was eager to take on full responsibilities for every aspect of no-till. While Ohio NRCS staffers in the 1970s were recommending that growers give no-till a try, they weren’t willing to make specific recommendations, as they were concerned about the government’s liability.
“They wouldn’t make specific recommendations, but were still suggesting that farmers try no-till,” he says. “When something went wrong with no-till, they’d throw their hands up in the air and say they couldn’t help because of government rules against making specific recommendations.”
To introduce the no-till concept nationwide in the early 1970s, the Chevron sales team was encouraged to take full responsibility and find ways make it work successfully.
“If armyworms or slugs became a problem, we didn’t blame the seed company,” Haddad says. “If the seed slot didn’t close, we didn’t blame the equipment company. But we knew darn well to educate the grower that if they had a wheat or rye cover, there’s a possibility of armyworm damage and we also showed them how to control these pests.”
Chevron gave their staff the green light to promote no-till before most other agricultural pesticide companies became involved. This included not only educating farmers on the benefits of no-till, working with Ohio State University educators, state-wide Cooperative Extension Service staffers, local soil and water districts and NRCS staffers, as well as many educators, crop consultants and other suppliers, especially in the farm machinery area.
This was taking place at a time when the major farm equipment players were skeptical of no-till, preferring to sell higher horsepower tractors and wider tillage tools.
Promoting No-Till for 46 Years
After graduating from the University of Rhode Island and spending 3 years in the U.S. Air Force, Haddad went to work in 1969 with Chevron Chemical Co. in New Jersey.
“I went with Chevron because of their interest in conservation and started working with New Jersey fruit, vegetable and specialty crop growers,” he says. “That’s when my passion for no-till started, as I could see the fuel savings, the labor savings and the soil conservation benefits. I was really intrigued with no-till.”
Chevron moved Haddad to Ohio in the fall of 1973 where there was much more opportunity for no-till growth than in New Jersey. He’s lived most of the time since on a 107-acre farm in Danville, ground that he insists his renter no-till.
"Chevron told us to take full responsibility and make no-till work…"
In 1986, he left Chevron and went to work for Valent U.S.A. while remaining in the same Ohio location. After a 46-year career and totally retiring in 2016, he’s still a big booster of no-till and promotes the idea every chance he gets.
Years earlier, the manufacturing and marketing of paraquat herbicide had reverted back to ICI (which went through a number of company mergers and acquisitions before eventually becoming Syngenta). ICI soon began marketing paraquat under the trade name Gramoxone.
Along with many others, Haddad played an important role in a dramatic increase in Ohio’s no-tilled acres. When Haddad moved to Ohio in 1973, the state’s no-till acreage stood at 123,000 acres. This data came from the No-Till Farmer survey that was based on acreage estimates provided each year by Soil Conservation Service (now NRCS) state agronomists. By 2012, data from the Census of Agriculture showed there were 4,278,556 acres of no-till in Ohio.
Slugging it Out
Haddad’s first year in Ohio led to a quick education on slug damage. He learned slugs are more of a concern in no-tilled corn fields since the increased residue provides these pests with a favorable stable, cool and wet environment. Slugs in some no-tilled corn fields in the spring were feeding on both seeds and seedlings, leading to plant death and poor stands. And there weren’t any recommended chemical treatments labeled for slug control, such as Deadline Bullets, Deadline Mini-Pellets and Mesurol treatments that came along later.
CRIPMED CEREAL RYE. Jon Spreng, Perrysville, Ohio, dairy farmer Steve Ayers and Bill Haddad check a cereal rye cover crop that was crimped with a manure drag line in a no-tilled corn field.
In those days, Haddad says homemade recipes for slug control that included cracked corn, molasses, Mesurol and beer worked well for some growers. Later on, he worked with the Pace Co. to develop an improved version of Deadline Bullets that was eventually labeled as Deadline Mini-Pellets, which was a combination of an attractant and metaledyde bait. It’s still used today to control slugs in no-till fields.
“Slug control took a lot of work and I really got involved because I knew slug damage was very discouraging to any new no-tiller,” says Haddad. “Even today if a new no-tiller finds slug damage on just a few acres, he’ll sometimes condemn the entire reduced tillage practice.”
Haddad uses slug damage as an example of his personal approach to taking full responsibility for every aspect of a new practice being adopted by growers. In the late 1970s and 1980s, Chevron had signed up a number of successful no-tillers to serve as one-on-one consultants to other growers getting started with the practice.
“Leave, and Never Come Back!”
Haddad recalls a day when one of these no-till farmer consultants called and said a grower he was working with had 5-inch long slugs feeding on knee-high corn in a 30-acre corn field.
“When I went to inspect the damage, I told the farmer the slug damage wasn’t going to last long and that there really wasn’t any good way to control them,” says Haddad. “The farmer said one of our grower consultants had talked him into trying no-till for the first time and wanted to know who’s going to pay for the damage and lost yield. When I explained these kind of small setbacks sometimes just happen, he wasn’t pleased.”
The farmer told Haddad to hit the road and never set foot on the farm again. As Haddad drove to the end of the driveway, his conscience was bothering him.
“The grower was correct, as one of our no-till farmer consultants had talked him into trying no-till,” says Haddad. “The farmer had a problem and I’d just walked away. That’s when I decided he deserved better.”
Haddad turned around and drove back to the farmstead. The farmer was on the way to the house and in a nasty voice asked why Haddad was back.
“I told him I had a solution for his slug problems, but that it wasn’t legal,” Haddad says. “When he asked me what it will take, I told him beer, Mesurol, molasses and cracked corn. We went into the house and I wrote out the recipe while he was having a can of beer. He was surprised my slug control recipe included beer.”
Heading home, Haddad stopped at the Ohio State University Agricultural Research and Development Center in Wooster and told two entomologists about the 5-inch slugs eating the grower’s corn crop. He suggested they look at the field.
"Slug damage was very discouraging to any new no-tiller…"
A few days later, the entomologists visited the field where the grower had applied the homemade slug bait. They later called Haddad and said this was the smartest grower they’d ever met as he was a genius for having come up with this slug bait concoction. They later added Haddad’s recipe to an Ohio State University crop guide publication. In addition, Ohio Farmer magazine printed the slug recipe in a 1986 cover story with the headline, “Searching for Slug Solutions.”
Get Totally Into Promoting No-Till
Over more than four decades, Haddad credits his success in promoting the many benefits of no-till with a willingness to take full responsibility for making it work. Whatever the no-till problem, farmers ag supply dealers and educators all knew he was there to help find a solution.
“Success breeds more success,” concludes Haddad. “50 years ago, many Ohio farmers thought no-till was ludicrous and lazy, but we got believers when they saw the results.
“In my mind, failure with no-tillage was never an option.”