Nick, Mike, Charles and Don Helland.

Record Yields and High Prices Reward Iowa Family on No-Till Journey

An ongoing journey of continuously reducing tillage hasn’t held back the Hellands, who press forward even when they hit bumps.

Everything went right in 2021. It was the first time in my years of farming that we matched record yields with high prices with the bonus of reduced inputs from no-till and strip-till. I think I’ll quit. 

All jokes aside, it’s time to start transitioning the family farm to the next generation. We’ve figured out a few improvements here and there — like no-till, strip-till and cover crops — soon it will be their turn to navigate what’s best for them, the farm and the community.

The family has been farming central Iowa for 160 years as of 2021. Currently I farm with my son, Nick; my brother, Charles; and his son, Dustin. Charles and I will try anything, which is how we got into no-till and cover crops. Considering Nick is in the process of starting a cereal rye seed production business, I think he and Dustin are of a similar mindset.

Our “give-it-a-shot” attitude is what got us to try no-till. But trying doesn’t equal adopting. The case for no-till and reduced tillage has been a bit muddy, both figuratively and literally. Back in the early 1990s, several people in our area were trying no-till. We figured we’d try it, too.

Equipment Shuffle 

The first year we no-tilled soybeans into corn stubble using our regular double-disc planter. After planting into standing corn stalks, the field looked ugly compared to the perfect seedbed we were used to planting into. My first impression was that we’d never do it again…

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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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