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Intercropping, Cover Crops Yield More Residue, Fewer Inputs & More Income

On the dry, wind-swept Colorado plains, more residue above and roots below are critical to John Heermann’s no-till system.

SOIL HEALTH DRIVES nearly every farm management decision I make these days. It’s why I use a stripper header, diversify my rotation, use cover crops and am ramping up intercropping. It even determines what gifts I send to my landlords on the holidays (books on soil health). I firmly believe the more I’m able to improve soil health now, the smoother my farming path will be in the future.  

It’s already getting smoother. In the last few years, I’ve found I can use 50% of the applied nitrogen (N) and phosphorus (P) recommended for my yield goals and still get the same yields. I’m getting twice as many bushels per acre unit of N. Where is that coming from? Soil health.

In just over a decade of farming, I’ve made sweeping changes to the acres I took over from my father. Beyond getting rid of the hours, equipment and fuel needed for tillage, additional changes have resulted in decreased input expenses including N, P and herbicides. They’ve also resulted in increased income opportunities among other benefits. 

Going no-till was the start of what has turned into a massive shift in management and philosophy. After college, I took over some of the rented acres dad was farming. I was still working outside jobs, so no-till seemed like a great option. At the time we were doing mechanical summer fallow. It made a lot more sense to spray weeds and then no-till drill wheat instead of sitting in a tractor for hours…

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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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