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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Mike Lessiter

A second-generation ag journalist, Mike Lessiter joined the family business in 2003 after 12 years in Chicago as editor/publisher of several manufacturing titles. He has been Editor/Publisher of Farm Equipment since its acquisition in 2004, and has served in several capacities with the Farm Equipment Manufacturers Assn. and Assn. of Equipment Manufacturers. In 2007, he was named president of Lessiter Publications Inc. (now Lessiter Media Inc.). Contact: mlessiter@lessitermedia.com

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