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What I've Learned from No-Tilling: No-Till and Cover Crops Deliver More From Field and Pasture

Putting all moisture to use growing something beneficial helps push semi-arid dryland production to the next level.


Pictured Above: EMERGENCY PLAN. A drought started in spring of 2020 and has yet to let up. Snyder was able to have 120 cow/calf pairs graze 55 acres of sorghum-sudangrass for 4 weeks. Having this reserve gave the native range a rest and provided high quality feed.

WESTERN SOUTH DAKOTA is dry. The last few years it’s been really, really dry. In the drought conditions we see all too often anymore, I’m very glad we no longer till the 750 acres we use to grow forage to help support our 600-head commercial cow/calf herd. We also background and graze about 400 yearlings the following summer.

Tilling was the standard on our operation. My grandfather was a firm believer that if you weren’t plowing, you weren’t farming. However, I saw and learned things in my agronomy classes at South Dakota State University (SDSU) and during my internships that made me question that standard.

I did three years of agricultural internships in eastern South Dakota. On that side of the state, wet springs created planting challenges. Running a disc over the field to dry out the surface so they could plant the next day was the solution. 

Then there was us, 350 miles west where we’re moisture deficient nearly all the time. We were discing our soils, too. Why? If they’re using this tool to dry out their soils, why would we ever be using that tool in our conditions? I thought there had to be a better way.

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Martha mintz new

Martha Mintz

Since 2011, Martha has authored the highly popular “What I’ve Learned About No-Till” series that has appeared in every issue of No-Till Farmer since August of 2002.


Growing up on a cattle ranch in southeastern Montana, Martha is a talented ag writer and photographer who lives with her family in Billings, Montana.

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