5 On-Farm Studies Help No-Tiller Measure Profitability and Calculate ROI

No-till veteran Marion Calmer explains how on-farm research has helped him determine the best row spacings, seeding populations, fertility and residue management programs for maximum profitability.

When Marion Calmer bought his first farm back in the 1980s, a quote attributed to British mathematician Lord Kelvin was top of mind: We cant improve on things we dont measure or research.”

That led the Alpha, Ill., no-tiller and owner of Calmer Corn Heads to start conducting independent on-farm research, which hes continued to make a priority in his 47 years of farming.

That commitment to testing and measuring has taught Calmer a lot about his farm and improved his profitability.

In a 2021 National No-Tillage Conference presentation, Calmer shared some of the key lessons hes learned from his on-farm studies and the results theyve had on his bottom line.

1. Stratification Hurts ROI

One area of his corn-soybean operation hes continually examined over the years is his fertility program and the ROI hes getting from applying his nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P) and potassium (K).

To test his P and K, Calmer has compared spreading the two nutrients vs. skipping an application in 60-foot-wide plots. Yield checks from two decades of the study have shown that a dollars worth of P and K only grows him about $0.40 worth of grain.

Considering that P and K arent very mobile in the soil — P only moves about 1-2 inches, while K can move about 2-3 — he suspects his application method is the reason why theyre not making…

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Laura allen

Laura Barrera

Laura Barrera is the former managing editor of No-Till Farmer and Conservation Tillage Guide magazines. Prior to joining No-Till Farmer, she served as an assistant editor for a greenhouse publication. Barrera holds a B.A. in magazine journalism from Ball State University.

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