Going From Bull-Headed to Bullish on No-Till

After years of conventional farming, this Randolph, Wis., grower has transitioned his 2,500-acre operation to no-till, cover crops and planting green. And he’s having a blast

Pictured Above: PREVENT-PLANT COVERS. The soggy spring of 2019 prevented Randolph, Wis., no-tiller Dale Macheel from planting a cash crop in a handful of fields. So that June, he seeded this mix of radishes and crimson clover instead. On Sept. 6 he seeded cereal rye into the green, growing cover crop, which he then terminated a week later. The following July, he harvested 45-bushel-per-acre rye for his own use and then seeded another cover crop.

Change can be difficult, especially if you’re bull-headed. Just ask Dale Macheel, who says he tends to be stubborn, just like most farmers. But it can also be fun, he says, a mindset he’s embraced while adopting conservation practices on his 2,500-acre cash grain operation in Randolph, Wis.

Just 5 years ago, Macheel, who has been farming since 1971 on and around the family farm where he grew up, was following the customary farming practices of the region — disc ripping in the fall and field cultivating in the spring. But his operation, which he farms with his son, Jonathan, is almost completely no-till now. He plants cover crops on all his acres and even plants green. 

“We’re not 100% no-till. But we sold the disc ripper, and the only tillage we do is to incorporate cover crop seed in the fall,” he says.

Seeing is Believing

Macheel attributes his change in attitude in part to former NRCS soil scientist Ray Archuleta, who spoke at a Wisconsin Land & Water Conservation Assn. conference several years…

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Julia Gerlach

Julia Gerlach is managing editor of No-Till Farmer. She has a lengthy background in publishing and a longtime interest in gardening and mycology. She graduated with a B.A. in music and philosophy from Alverno College in Milwaukee, Wis.

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