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The No-Till Planter Race: Did IH Get There Before A-C?

International Harvester appears to have been the first to come to market with a no-till concept planter — 13 years before Allis-Chalmers’ model found commercial success in 1966. But IH exited production just 2 years later after only 23 shipments.

As our staff was delving into research for the “Timeline of No-Till History," the No-Till Museum we’ll be bringing to the National No-Tillage Conference in Louisville, and an all-new history series planned in 2022 to mark the “triple crown” of no-till milestones, we discovered some mystery over the first no-till planter. And it’s the kind of discovery that’s sure to fuel additional debates.

It’s been widely reported by Frank Lessiter since putting out the first issue of No-Till Farmer 50 years ago that Allis-Chalmers (A-C) holds the distinction of having produced the first commercially successful no-till planter in 1966, then branded as the No-Til planting system. That is fact.

What we discovered — from scouring farm message boards, combing through videos and old farm publication articles, and making inquiries with several ag equipment historians — is less widely known. That is, in the early 1950s, International Harvester (IH) manufactured, marketed and sold what some claim is the first no-till planter. That was a full 13 years before the first A-C system hit the market (see sidebar at bottom). 

Now, all you A-C’ers out there, don’t worry about this discovery dethroning your orange implement from its proud distinction in no-till history. A-C’s No-Til planter remains, without doubt, as the first that was “commercially successful.”

Unexpected Discovery 

An examination of AgTalk message boards and a video by Classic Tractor Fever TV (an excerpted video is available at www.no-tillfarmer.com/historyM21video) tipped us off to IH’s role in no-till planter history. In the…

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