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No-Till Innovation Comes in Leaps and Bounds

Wisconsin no-till dairyman Chris Conley thwarts heavy rain and hills with no-till, covers and planting green.

Neosho, Wis., no-tiller Chris Conley took two big steps where other farmers might take one.

Conley farms 120 acres for feed (silages, dry hay and high-moisture corn) for his 52-cow dairy, located down a dirt road amid a small fold of hills in Dodge County. The hills make for stunning views of the surrounding countryside, and his barn and silo. They also pose unique management challenges. Or they did, until recently.

Up until 2018, Conley worked his hilly land using methods that had been handed down to him by his grandparents. They involved chisel plowing to make the land suitable for planting.

“It’s just how I learned how to do it,” he says. “That’s how it was supposed to be done, and I never thought to question it at all.”

At the same time, the hills limited his options. Plow in too deep, expose too much soil, and the hillside could alternately wash away and then dry out.

Check The Specs...

NAME: Chris Conley

LOCATION: Neosho, Wis.

ACRES: 120

YEARS NO-TILLING: 3

CROPS: Corn, rye, grass hay mix

ANNUAL PRECIPITATION: 35 inches

IRRIGATION: No

LIVESTOCK: 52 Holstein cows

“They dry out so fast, so it’s nice to keep the ground covered, to help the water infiltrate in and protect the soil,” he says. “Fertilizer doesn’t mean anything if you don’t have water. Water’s the number one ingredient that you need for growing a crop.”

Hill No

The Dodge County Farmers for Healthy Soil & Healthy Water — a farmer-led peer…

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Brian o connor

Brian O'Connor

Brian O'Connor started at Lessiter Media as the Lead Content Editor for Conservation Agriculture in November 2021. He previously worked in daily print journalism for more than a decade in places as far flung as Alaska and the U.S. Virgin Islands, where he shared a national award for coverage of two Category 5 hurricanes that struck the islands in 2017. He's also taught English in Korea, delivered packages for Amazon, and coordinated Wisconsin election night coverage for the Associated Press. His first job was on a Southeast Wisconsin farm.

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