“I suspect you guys have those same two traits (as Harry Young Jr.). These idea for these two traits comes from Thomas Edison. One of the best inventors in the United States, possibly in the world. He said you only need two things to be a good invent. one is a good imagination and the other one is a pile of junk. Now you've got probably both of those things.”
This week’s “No-Till Influencers and Innovators” podcast features two members of commercial no-till’s founding family: John and Alex Young.
Their presentation to the 2017 National No-Tillage Conference touches on just about everything, from the origins and rise of no-till farming to climate change, cover crops, and residue management.
If you don’t know, John Young’s father, Harry Young, Jr., no-tilled the first commercial plot in Eastern Kentucky in the early 1960s. John bridges the gap between his dad and publication of Edward Faulkner’s seminal work Plowman’s Folly, originally published in 1943.
Alex Young talks about ongoing experiments on the farmland they currently manage, ranging from new experimentation with equipment to water management improvements, pivots and tile drainage.
You’ll also hear people in the audience asking questions near the end of the presentation.
Click here to see John Young's powerpoint. (Requires Registration)
No-Till Farmer‘s No-Till Influencers & Innovators Podcast podcast is brought to you by Verdesian Life Sciences.
At Verdesian Life Sciences, we believe that supplying healthy water and soil for the next generation is just as important as supplying efficient nutrients for every crop farmers grow. For us, sustainability and profitability go hand in hand. That’s why we call ourselves The Nutrient Use Efficiency People. We have dedicated ourselves to providing prescriptive nutrient use efficiency solutions that improve plant uptake and reduce fertilizer losses, helping preserve the environment and make the most of your investment. Learn more at vlsci.com or talk to your ag retailer today about Verdesian products.
Welcome to the No-Till Farmer Influencers and Innovators podcast. I'm Brian O'Connor, lead content editor for No-Till Farmer. Verdesian sponsors this podcast about the past, present, and future of no-till farming. Today's episode is a re-podcast of an episode that originally aired on the No-Till Farmer podcast in 2017. In it, high profile no-tillers, John and Alex Young touch on a variety of subjects from the early days of no-till farming, to climate change, to residue management, and cover crops. Ladies, gentlemen, others, John and Alex Young.
We personally are here, Al and I are here basically to get the subject introduced. I'm not here because I'm so smart, because a lot of you guys are probably smarter than I am. You may be better businessmen than I am. Some of you are better looking. Not many of you, but some of you are probably better looking than I am. I'm here because of seniority. 55 years ago, my dad, Harry Young, was the first farmer to plant a field of no-till anything using modern no-till technology.
He was modern at that time. Let me get a slide up here, just make sure I know how to use. There we go. The one on the left is my dad, Harry Young. The one on the right is Dr. Shirley Phillips, who coauthored the first book on no-tillage farming with my dad. And the one in the middle is my mom. None of them could be here today because they've all passed away. My dad passed away in 1988. Dr. Phillips, shortly thereafter. And my mom in 2012.
But we still farm the same place. We've been there in one form or another since the 1830s. But hopefully, we've learned a few things in those interim years. 1962 was the year that he planted that first crop. But I know with 100% certainty that if he were here today, he would want to point out the fact that he was not the first one to think of that idea. Just like Daniel Boone was a pioneer in finding Kentucky, somebody had to tell him that there was a Kentucky. That man's name was John Finley.
Well, the same thing was true with my dad, Harry Young, even though he was the first no-till farmer. In 1961, he learned of that idea from a gentleman in Dixon Springs, Illinois. You probably know the name George McKibben. And if you don't, you should. We actually, I think we have a slide of George McKibben. Hold on a second here. There we go. And even before his time in introducing no-tillage in Southern Illinois, there was a fellow in Georgia, Channing Cope.
I don't have a slide of him. His idea was to control erosion and to somehow make farming profitable without the use of the plow. And then before he was around, or at least before his book was published, there was a gentleman named Edward Faulkner. You probably know that name, or at least I hope you do. He wrote a book called Plowman's Folly. Actually, at the end of our presentation we're going to eliminate everybody in here except two people. And I have actually two copies of that book, that classic book, Plowman's Folly, that I would like to get into your hands.
I read it myself several times. Don't agree with all of it, neither will you. But that's just the way we are here. If any one of us thinks exactly alike, one of us is not needed. We will think about a lot of different things in a lot of different ways. And if I visited with you, you may very well have ideas that are better than mine. And I might stumble across one myself that would be better than yours. You know the old saying, "Even a blind dog finds a bone now and then."
My dad back in 1962 when he planted that first crop of no-till, was exemplifying the two traits that are necessary to be an inventor. I suspect you guys have those same two traits. The idea for these two traits comes from Thomas Edison, one of the best inventors in the United States, possibly in the world. He said, "You only need two things to be a good inventor. One is a good imagination, and the other one is a pile of junk." Now, you've got probably both of those things.
And I know some of you do because there are inventions here on display at this conference that are quite a bit better than what my dad started with back in 1962. This is a picture of the original no-till planter. It's kind of like looking at the Wright Brothers aircraft versus a 747, or one of these new, oh, who knows what, all the new stuff going on now. But you'll notice some things that are the same, and you'll notice some things that are different in this picture. You'll notice that there's a plow coulter up front.
Does anybody know what kind of tractor this is that's being used? Anybody recognize that? International 140. That was a tobacco tractor. Until no-tillage came into being, our area in Southwestern Kentucky was basically cattle and tobacco. There were a few acres of crop. But they were not the cash crop. We have now become part of the Corn Belt or the Bean Belt, depending on which way you want to call it. But those coulters up front were good to have.
Right back behind that is what was a two-row mule drawn planter that was pulled out of the fence row right after my dad went to hear Dr. McKibben talk. Came back home and said, "I think I can do that." We didn't even have a welder in 1962. We had to go to the one welder in the community. It was called Rob's Shop. And everybody took their welding project to Rob's Shop. So, he went down and explained what he wanted to have done. He got it welded, put together, mounted on the back of this 140 tractor.
And what is the old saying? The rest is history. You'll also notice that back behind where the furrows are made, that there's not even any disc openers. Back behind that, the press wheel is rather lacking. That's not the kind of press wheel I would use. In fact, we got to experiment. Maybe I'll have time to tell that later. This past year, we had a tractor burn up and a planter burn up. And we got to do all kinds of neat things. Well, it wasn't neat at the time, Al. But anyway, it was something to behold.
So, that's a picture of the very first one in 1962. These are pictures of people just like you and me visiting the farm, trying to find out what in the world that crazy man was doing over there. And lots and lots of people. Until two months ago, I didn't even know this picture and the next two pictures were in existence. This is a picture of the county agent, extension agent, Reeves Davey, examining the very first no-till crop of corn, 1962, which is right across the field for where my son, Al, now lives, same farm. And has still been in it, by the way, for the last 55 years.
So, if anybody asks you the question, "Does it work?" The answer is, yep. It does work. In fact, I made a whole list of crops that we have planted. It covered a whole page. So, rather than read that to you, I would guess the best thing to do is to ask the question, where does it not work? I know of three places where no-till will not work. It will not work if somebody has been dumb enough to erode the ground down to bedrock. You cannot plant no-till in bedrock.
I have never been able to make it work in standing water. Now, I've planted through some standing water. Not by choice, but because you got a little pocket here and a pocket there and the rest of the field is fine. It doesn't come up very well. The third place it will not work, at least in my experience, is when there's snow and ice still on the ground. I haven't been able to make that work. Maybe someday we will. I don't know. But this was the very first field. There it is.
By the way, these pictures appeared in the 1962 version, the fall edition of the Kentucky Farmer. And it was a statewide publication. This is the first no-till crop in that year and in that location. And you can see the notation under there. The only thing they had, by the way, to kill weeds was 2-4-D, if you got it on early enough, and atrazine. That's all they had. Atrazine had not been out all that long at the time. And paraquat, if it had been invented, it was still in California being used to scorch the areas under fruit trees. And it's an interesting story how my dad got that into Kentucky, but it probably will have to wait for another time.
This is a picture of my dad and my uncle just before corn harvest. Or, as the corn, you can see the corn's a lot different now than it was then. They thought tall corn in 40-inch rows was the way to go. 40-inch rows I'm told was set because that was the exact width of the rear-end of a mule. And when you could cultivate between the rows, a 40-inch row was the way to plant. We have since narrowed that down. And we've tried 30s, and 20s, and 15s. And I'm sure you guys have done the same thing.
Now, this picture of the two young brothers, my dad's on the right, my Uncle Lawrence is on the left, also brings up an interesting point about differences of opinion. Remember, I talked to you about differences of opinion. Yours will be different than mine. We can try different things. And we can probably arrive at a successful conclusion at the end of that. My uncle did not think no-till was a good idea. In fact, he was dead set against it. He went down to the store and he would tell how his brother was crazy. And he didn't want to try it anymore.
But my dad was enough of a believer in this idea, as you are as well, that he pressed on. He convinced those who had to be convinced. He even ended up writing a book with Dr. Phillips, another book with another gentleman. And he was a strong-willed man. And he was a whole lot smarter than I am, by the way. So, I'm here on his behalf, not on my behalf. But that was the beginning of no-tillage. The next year, Dr. Shirley Phillips came down from the University of Kentucky to do some test plots. Some of these plots, as you can see, were for herbicides, different things that were being introduced for the types of disc openers, for the types of closing wheels, for the types of crops that could be grown.
This is my dad going through with a one-row, hand-pushed planter. As we went through the years, I'm sure many of you have been familiar with this kind of planter, Allis-Chalmers was the first one to come out with a usable, workable, marketable no-till planter. The little red boxes in the front were used for insecticide. We haven't used insecticide in the row for a long, long time. But back then we were doing that. You can also see that the bigger the boxes where the seed went in was a good idea. The double coulters in the front had to have something to get it through the straw.
This is double crop soybeans being planted, of course. Eventually, a six-row planter just wasn't big enough. So, my wife and I went to the Quad Cities area, picked up a hitch to hook two of them together. I think it was an International hitch to hook two Allis-Chalmer's planters together. You know how that kind of thing goes, everything gets bigger, and better, and more expensive. These are the old style markers. Anybody ever use one of those? Raise your hand if you ever used them. Yeah. We've got some. Using those kind of markers.
And you guys are the baby boomers. I know. You know the difference between a baby boomer and a millennial, don't you? When a baby boomer pulls into an irregularly shaped field, you do the end rows, and then you have a few passes out in the middle of it, and you say, "I wonder if I could get by with just driving this manually, or am I going to have to set up A, B, lines for my GPS?" Right? I do the same thing. The millennials will pull into that same irregularly shaped field, they'll do the end rows, and they'll say, "I wonder if I can get by with setting up A, B, lines, or if I'm going to have to drive this thing manually?" It's just backwards.
I went deer hunting last November. And I stepped off the distance to where I shot the deer. It was 105 yards. I was talking with a millennial, who had also gone deer hunting. And I said, "Well, mine stepped off 105. How far away were you?" He said, "Well, my Google Map said it was 95 yards." I'm not kidding. I'm not making that up. All right, enough of that. These are markers. All you young guys, this is what it used to be. You didn't have a thing to look down the middle. You had to follow that chain down the row.
Well, as acreage increased, and as Mr. Lessiter and Lessiter Publications got things underway with no-till farmers, people started to notice. This is a picture of several artsy-craftsy kind of guys from DuPont Chemical, who came out to make a film of my dad. I think it has been maybe still in print somewhere. In the 1970s, Purdue University came down, did the same thing. That nice looking guy on the right in this picture is me, before I got old and lazy. The one on the left is my dad.
Our wheat back in those days made 40 to 50 bushels an acre. The corn was making about 95 to 100 bushels an acre. I forgot to tell you, that in that first year when my dad and my uncle did no-tillage, they had a total corn acreage of 94 acres. My son, Al, and I now farm just over 2000 of corn, plus 2000 of wheat, and 2000 of beans. So, things have changed a lot since then. And the yields, thankfully, have increased, even though the prices haven't.
This is a bunch of artsy-craftsy guys that came just last summer from Columbia University. The Buffet family, Howard and Warren Buffet, sponsored, they're doing a promotional video trying to teach people in Africa how to sustain themselves by growing their own crops, enough to feed themselves. The guy on the left is Dr. Lloyd Murdoch. You may be familiar with him. He was a strong proponent of no-tillage from the University of Kentucky. And the guy with the big hat is me.
Okay, when were these beans planted? Were they 1962, or were they 2016? Beans, at least double crop beans, look a lot the same now that they did then. The varieties are different. A lot of improvements have been made on the planting. But if you get a good stand, you've done a good job no matter what year it is. Remember I talked about size. This was a great big sprayer back in the 1970s. It was a 30-foot boom. My dad and another gentleman went into business for custom spraying with a Hahn Hi-Boy. It was again, it was a tobacco sprayer that was used, switched over for grain crops.
And this is my dad again looking at some double crop beans that have been planted in the 1960s. This slide is to tell you that we have tried a lot of things through the years, most of which didn't work very well. We always tried a few things that worked very well. In the middle of the 1970s, I was fully convinced that this was the future of farming. To get a swather to put the wheat in a windrow to the side of the planter to plant in between, come back and pick up the wheat. And you can get a jump start on the year, in double cropping anyway, by those beans that are planted in between the windrows.
Well, the thing that got in the way was Mother Nature. We had a lot of rain in Kentucky in June. And those windrows can sit there and get rather foul by the time the combine comes back through. So, even though we bought a swather, and I did my dead level best to make it work, we finally had to sell the thing. And we go back to the regular combine and plant after the combine kind of a thing. I wish it worked. And I'm looking for any ideas that you guys have that might help me because we don't know everything. Even after 55 years, there's a lot of things we don't know.
Going back to Thomas Edison, if you will. One of my favorite quotations from Thomas Edison is this, even though he was a great inventor, he said, "We don't know one-millionth of 1% of anything." There's so much yet to be discovered. In the 1890s, Congress actually came very close to doing away with the patent office because they said at that time there was nothing left to be invented. You remember that? Well, guess what? The government is never wrong. Some of you got that, didn't you? All right. With that in mind, I'm going to turn it over to my son, Al, who knows what's going on right now. And then I'm going to finish it up, if we have time, Darrell. Okay. Al, it's all yours.
Good. Thank you, dad. Good morning. How is everyone? Good, I don't know if I know what's going on. I'm going to back up one slide just to comment on this. While the swather era was well before my time, my earliest memories are playing on the swather in games of hide-and-go seek. The concept still proves true. It reminds me of the proverb in the Bible that says, 'In all labor there is profit, but idle chatter leads only to poverty." Each idea has merit.
There's something to be said for trying, and for experimenting, and for moving on. And that's what we're in the middle of. I'm going to buzz through a bunch of slides very quickly here. And then turn it back over to dad. And take a look and get the future there. And I think we got about 20 minutes still, Darrell. So, I think we're good to go on that. We have tried lots of different things over the years. And we are huge believers in on-farm tests. And I'm going to scoot this down just a little bit, Joe. I'm getting a little bit of feedback there. Thanks.
We are huge believers in using the yield monitor on the combine, and testing everything that we can think of to test to figure out exactly what'll work and what to repeat next year. Now, I know it's not a perfect system, especially I think some of the ag leader guys may come forward and say, "I don't put too much confidence in this, put a little bit." But there's something to be said for having a benchmark and a guideline to go by. This was a test we did in 2011, ammonium sulfate. We did several tests, several replications.
And I don't think it'll be repeated, at least not until we learn something else about the system on our farm. So, much variation in soil type and nutrient level. We moved on from that. By the way, a perfect system is one that has no error in it. So, if any of you guys have a perfect system for testing, let us know what it is. Another test we ran accidentally is, I don't think this is showing up quite as well on the slide as I'd hoped it would, but this was a mechanical test showing some serious problems with straw chopper and spreading.
And you can pick out some blank spots in our double crop bean fields from this past summer. So, we're looking forward to branching out and making some changes on that one. Some of the challenges are not mechanical and they're not nutrient oriented, but they're environmental factors. This was a brief presentation that we put together just this past summer to show to some people about how much yield loss we're actually looking at around all of our tree lines. On this particular field we were looking at about a 40 bushel loss on corn, a 9 bushel loss on soybeans.
You need to come in and figure out how can you balance having what you need there and what can you take out and adjust. When you have irregularly shaped fields, like we do in Western Kentucky, it's a constant challenge. This 25-acre field is divided by two ditches and a patch of woods. It used to be three ditches and a patch of woods. And dad said that half acre was no longer worth claiming. So, we put it into trees through NRCS. And we're down to this one. But it's a constant challenge, not just in yield, but in production, management, stewardship, and slopes.
Technology changes. Not just electronic, but mechanically speaking. This planter on the right of the slide is the Allis-Chalmer's planter that dad had. And then out here in the Grand Suites in the no-till museum, they've got a picture of my grandfather standing next to it. I think it was a Purdue University study that came down and did that. Now, what's the difference between the old planter on the right and the new planter on the left? There's a whole lot up front. But what comes out the back and in the ground is what we're all striving for. And we hope that there's no huge difference there.
I put in this just for all you guys who are pro corn fungicide. This is one of the few maps that we tested that actually showed a good return on some dry land corn there. But unfortunately, most of them look like this, either no difference or even sometimes a yield hit. And it's one of those things that we're continuing to experiment on. We've seen great results in wheat and soybeans. But we're just not seeing it in corn in our no-till system.
We'll come back to the Young's in a moment. First, I'd like to thank our sponsor, Verdesian, for supporting today's podcast. Verdesian Life Sciences believes healthy water and soil for the next generation is just as important as supplying efficient nutrients for today's crops. For Verdesian, sustainability and profitability go together. Learn more at vlsci.com, or talk to your ag retailer today. Now, back to John and Alex Young.
Two things I want to point out in this picture. I thought some of you guys would be interested in which sprayer we run. We have a John Deere 4730. I have 15-inch centers on it, 800 gallon tank, 100 foot boom. And we put that over a lot of acres. And we map a lot of data with that thing. The tanker in the background, I don't have a better picture of, but that is probably the best eBay purchase that my father has ever made. We pumped a lot of gallons through that thing.
We've tried lots of different experiments. This is another test plot from this summer of treated and non-treated on some Southern states, 4.7 beans. And it's one of those again that we are not going to be repeating. This is what our data implementation team looks like. We got a sprayer, a GPS, a well-selected hybrid for the soil type or variety, and the center pivot irrigator. I think I skipped a page in my notes here. Let's jump ahead to another thing that we haven't test.
We have lots of people come by and say, "Test our product. We want to do this." And we are just constantly running as many trials as we can through the fields, and still trying to get our work done. I'm buzzing through a whole lot of maps here. But the theme is the same. There are things that were guaranteed that will work. Go to not just a conference, but go to a seminar, sit down with an agronomist. And they say, "This is going to work."
And we take it home, we try it. And it doesn't work. For us, fertigation on corn is one of the things that we are still playing with and just not seeing the results that some of the studies say we should be getting. So, we're learning on that one. Another thing is no-till ripping. I don't want to ruffle any feathers here. But if you look at all of the neighbors and listen to everybody in our area, it's an obvious thing that works. Every time we put it to a yield map, we're not seeing a response. Be interested to hear some feedback on that in our water management seminar that we're going to do tomorrow.
In the end, this graph is what we're striving for. This is not showing up as well on the slide. I just grabbed it last minute, threw it in the presentation. But this is one that we put together for some people this summer. And this is eight years of soil test data, and it shows a steady increase in our organic matter. When dad was young and starting in on his farming career, organic matter was well below even our benchmark level here at the beginning. And we've seen a nice steady increase over the years. Again, there's no perfect system. But that's what we have to go by.
The picture in the lower right, just gives you an idea of some of the challenges that we have in our soil types. Heavy red clay here. I couldn't fit one in of all the rocks that we have. But that is a manmade hole that shows some of the challenges with our soil. In the next side, there is a naturally made hole that shows some topographic challenges that we have in our area. There are always challenges. Always things to overcome.
And by the way, this is a really good test for the health of the sprayer driver too. Test your heart and your blood pressure. Dad, I'm going to turn it back over to you. We're going to jump for the future here. But some of the things we are looking heavily at are water management, pivots, tiling drainage. And we'll be doing a seminar on that tomorrow at 3:00 something.
It's always a good idea to put in, Lord willing. First of all, because none of us know what the future is. And secondly, because there's freezing rain and ice I think coming in sometime on Friday, or so they tell me. Okay. One thing that I forgot to mention at the very first, and I should mention it now, you should know that this is a family operation.
You can tell that because of Al and me both being up here. But we have wives, and kids, and grandkids, and stuff. Would you guys stand in the back and be recognized? There they are. Give them a round of applause. I'm always amazed that the amount of patience it takes to be a farm wife. And some of you ladies who are sitting here can probably say amen to that. I don't think I have time to do it this morning. Darrell, how much time have we got left anyway?
You got 15 minutes yet.
Oh, great. Okay. Well, let's look at some of the controversial issues in no tillage. This is, remember I told you at the first, that we're not going to agree on everything. Well, these are some of the things that we're not going to agree on. Let's start with a tough one. No-tillage and climate change. There's a lot of studies been made of showing just how much the climate has changed over the last 40 years. But I'm a firm believer in the fact that climate has always changed and will continue to change.
There's also been studies in recent past showing that the science is settled on climate change. And in my opinion, the science is not settled. It's still out. In fact, one of the smartest ladies I ever met teaches middle school science just north of Atlanta, Georgia. Just after Al Gore came out with his Inconvenient Truth, she watched that. And said, "That just doesn't add up." So, she sat down for her colleagues and made a presentation of the seven different logical fallacies that were made in that presentation.
She did a good job. I'm not biased just because she's my sister. I'm biased because I think it was the truth. Just to give you one example. Just a tip of the iceberg, so to speak, with no polar bears on it. The difference between accuracy and precision was never pointed out. You can say that two plus two equals four, which is true. You can say that it equals 3.99999 and that's very precise. But if you say two plus two equals five, you are inaccurate.
That film featured lots and lots about the precision of the equipment that was used, but talked very little about the accuracy of it. Just one other thing for you to think on. I'm not going to spend all morning or in the next 15 minutes on this at all. But where the government, which is never wrong, pointed out that carbon dioxide is a pollutant. My corn plants thinks it's fertilizer. They love carbon dioxide.
In fact, if you ever go to someone who does greenhouses, whether it's in tobacco plants, or hanging gardens, or whatever you want, the carbon dioxide levels in the air that are used to maximize the potential in the greenhouse is quite a bit higher than what we have in the atmosphere now. Just something to think about. Not a lecture on climate change. But just to let you know that while there are believers, and there are skeptics, and there are deniers, I for one am somewhere in the skeptic leaning toward denier.
We don't have to agree on that. But it's something to think about. Next question is why in the world, since no-till is such a good idea and has proven to be a good idea, why does everybody not do it? Well, I got three answers for you. And it all comes from real life. One answer is that we're just creatures of habit. Now, you guys are smart. I mean, there are no dumb farmers left in the country because they were all weeded out in the 1980s.
In fact, Dr. Langemeier from Purdue has said that the no-till farmers are 12% more efficient when all costs are included than their neighbors who are conventional tillers. So, you're 12% better right off the bat. But we still are creatures of habit, even those of us who are no-tillers. The way I found this out was that we put up a new clock in our kitchen. I don't know, if you go into your kitchen, you have somewhere that you have a clock. And you look at the wall every time you come in to see what time it is.
Well, my wife decided it was time to change the clock from this wall to that wall. That was a year ago. I still walk into the kitchen and look at that wall to see what time it is. And I think, "Oh yeah, it's over here." We're creatures of habit. We do the same thing over and over again unless there is some reason to change. And then it still takes us a while to get used to the new way of doing things. Second reason that not everybody does it is a direct quotation from a very intelligent, nice young farmer who's a neighbor of ours who rips the ground in between his double crop soybean harvest and his corn planting the next spring.
So, Al asked him, "Why do you do it? Our yields have shown that there's no advantage to it. All the neighbors do it, of course. But why do you do it?" He said, "Well, at that time of the year, I just don't have anything else to do." That's a direct quotation, right. So, that is one reason. But I think maybe getting down to the meat and potatoes of it, the third reason maybe strikes closer to home, and that is that it takes more management with no-tillage. You can't just send a minimum wage guy out on a half million dollar tractor to run up and down the row and expect to have the same results as you would if you had him behind, or pulling a disc, or a plow, or something like that.
You've got to actually pay attention to what's going on. So, creatures of habit, nothing else to do, and the fact that it takes more management. There are a number of things that I would like to know. I would like to be able to do differently than we're doing now. Now, as you may have picked up, as we're going through these things, we have a corn followed by wheat, followed by double crop soybean rotation. We stick pretty closely to that rotation simply because we don't know what the prices are going to do, and even though wheat price is horrible right now, so is corn.
The beans are average. But by the time harvest rolls around, it may very well be that the wheat is more profitable than we think it is now. What I would love to be able to do is to have something that grows on the ground between soybean harvest, which is well past the first killing frost, before we plant corn the next spring, and to be able to cut it and sell it. I hear silence. But I haven't found anything either. And I'm looking. I know all about cover crops. And we have a number of different cover crop trials.
In fact, I guess for the purpose of cover cropping, we've been doing it for 53 years. Wheat, we call our cover crop wheat. We plant it after the corn, and we plant beans after it the next summer. But for that winter period between let's say the middle of October of one year after we cut beans, and the April the 1st, when the crop insurance allows us to get in and plant corn, I would love to have something that grows and can be sold. To me, that would be a perfect system. And if any of you guys can buttonhole me afterwards and tell me what you found, I would really like to know it.
Another thing that I would really like to do to improve our system, and that is on the outside two or three rows of every one of our fields, we have skips in the population. I have finally convinced myself that it's voles, V-O-L-E-S. I thought we were putting the corn in the trench where the anhydrous went. I mean, I thought it was a lot of different things. But I would love to find a volicide, if you will. Or, something that will change that outside two or three rows that we have trouble with.
So, as you see me or Al, either one, in the halls over the next two or three days, tell us what you're doing. Because you guys probably have some of those ideas that Thomas Edison was talking about. You've got a good imagination and a pile of junk. So, you can be a good inventor. Okay.
All right. Want to take questions?
Yeah. Have you got time for questions? I have a giveaway, or an earn away actually, that I'd like to do. Do you got time for questions or not?
Sure. Let's do questions first.
We can do that.
Let's do it.
I'm going to leave these with you up here.
So, but yeah. We've got a few minutes for some questions here. If somebody would like to just raise your hand, we'll come around with a mic.
Just one comment. When you started off, you said were three things, three places no-till wouldn't work.
I hate to correct you.
But so anyway, I agree with the rocks and I agree with the water. I don't agree with the ice and snow. We do it every spring. We plant peas and barley. We frost seed them into frozen surface. So, you can modify that a little bit. I wouldn't do it in January. But we do, do it in March.
That's an excellent point. By the way, my grandfather did the same thing. On the last frost, he would go out with a hand cedar and he would put down legumes in the wheat as a means of getting it somehow freezing and thawing worked into the ground. So, he did the same thing. I was thinking of corn. And you do that also. We've had snow fall on corn after it was planted. But I've never been gutsy enough to go out and plant it in the snow. But that's a good point. I'm glad you brought that up.
Alex. You've seen your grandfather and your dad manage residue and learn how to no-till. You're obviously today in charge of managing the residue. And from a no-tiller's point of view, residue seems to be one of our biggest obstacles. As yields continue to increase and with rotations, the level of residue that we deal with every year continues to increase. Give us a little bit about what you saw, what you're doing, and what do you think you're going to do in the future with managing residue?
Yeah. Boy, that's a big question. A long answer, and I'll keep it short because that's where my knowledge is. We're definitely going to evaluate straw choppers. That is on the short list, probably the 60 day list. So, that when we go into our wheat in June, we're looking at that. We're a pretty big fan of the row cleaners. And of course, by closing wheel isn't exactly row cleaners. I don't know if you want to get into that, dad, on the closing wheels.
If we have time.
But if you can get, of course, good seed soil contact, and somehow get the residue back, that is ideal. So, is that answering your question? That's an awfully short answer to a big question there, but.
Okay. Thanks, Mr. Coleman.
And Marion, just to back up a few years, when we had 20-foot headers, it was no problem.
But when you went to 40 and 45-foot headers, it's difficult for the chopper to spread it evenly over that width. And that's one reason we just traded for a different brand of combine. I need to talk with Phil Needham. Last time I was here, he was talking about choppers that would actually do that job and spread it uniformly. Chop the straw, especially in the wheat up, and that is a big item. I need to talk with him. So, if I don't see you, Phil, if you're around, talk to me before the meeting's over. Thank you for asking that. That's important.
Background as a first time no-tiller this year and first time at attendee, what would be your bit of advice that you could give me after 55 years of experience?
That's a good question. I would recommend talking to your neighbors who have done it. If they haven't done it, find somebody who has. You probably are in the center of the elite right here. So, just hunt somebody up and say, "What worked? What didn't work? What kind of planter should I use? What should I add to my planter?" If you've already got a line of machinery for no-tillage, then maybe small tweaking will do. That's the best advice I can give you.
You said that wheat was your only cover crop, but you treated it as a cover crop even though it's a cash crop. You're not doing anything on your beans stubble or even your wheat stubble to have a growing cover crop out there?
We have, right now, we have Austrian winter peas growing. And we had tillage radishes, Daikon radishes growing. Unfortunately, at the late date that we harvest beans, they just don't get very much growth on them before the winter closes in. So, we're still looking. We do not have the proper cover crop between our soybean harvest and our corn planting the next spring.
Anybody else got a question right now they'd like to ask? We got time for one more yet. So, we got time for one more.
Looks like John has one over there, Darrell.
Okay, good. Let me walk back there quick.
You say you don't have time to put in a cover crop. Why don't you go to a shorter season bean?
Well, the wheat... Is that what you asked? A shorter season wheat?
About using a shorter season bean.
Okay. The highest yield we can get from beans are the ones that takes the most advantage of the daylight that we have before the frosts close in. For our area, that's a 4.3 to 4.9 maturity range. If we cut it back much below that, we start losing yield on soybeans. And we're just eliminating the whole purpose of having it, which is to make a profit. By the way, I didn't mention the 4 Ps, which is the very title of this presentation.
An unprofitable farmer will soon be a former farmer. You got to make a profit or it's not worth it. The second thing was production. If you don't have a stalk growing out there, you're not going to make the production, which means you can't sell it, which means you have to go find something else to do for a living. Progeny is the next generation. I'm very thankful for Alexander. We have five surviving children. Alexander is the one who is back on the farm right now. And posterity is for people we've never met yet. People who are going to take over the land after we're forgotten. They won't even know who we are hardly. So, those four things are very important. Just I didn't talk about them.
That was John and Alex Young talking about just about everything at the 2017 National No-Tillage Convention. That's it for this episode of the No-Till Farmer Influencers and Innovators podcast. Thanks again to our sponsor, Verdesian, for helping to make the series possible. You can find more podcasts about no-till topics and strategies at no hyphen till farmer dot com slash podcasts. A transcript of this episode will be available there shortly.
If you have any feedback on today's episode, please feel free email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Or, call me at 262-777-2413. No-Till Farmer editor, Frank Lessiter, would also love to answer your questions about no-till and the people and innovations shaping today's practices. Please email your questions for Frank to listener mail, all one word, at no hyphen till farmer dot com. If you haven't already, you can subscribe to this podcast to get an alert as soon as future episodes are released. Find us wherever you listen to podcasts. For Frank and our entire staff here at No-Till Farmer, I'm Brian O'Connor. Thanks for listening and farm ugly.