IMPROVED SOILS. Brian and Jamie Johnson’s dryland soils benefit from no-till and a diverse crop rotation. No-till allows water to infiltrate deeper during wet years and conserves water during drought. Rotating crops also gives them yield bumps and pasture land to graze cattle.

No-Tillers Find Success with Diverse Crop Rotations

Efficiency and input reduction lead Brian and Jamie Johnson to continually try new ideas on their 1,700-acre operation that includes more than a half-dozen crops.

Brian and Jamie Johnson’s farm may look different than their neighbors, but they are OK with that. The Johnsons’ quest for efficiency and input reduction on their Frankfort, S.D., operation drives them to try new and different things

“You cannot just sit and maintain and expect to last in this industry,” says Brian. “You must think outside the box and try something new every once in a while.”

No-Till Tradition

The Johnsons’ farm has been in the family for four generations, and the operation continues to be multi-generational. Brian’s parents and his four children all have active roles in the farm. Together they have about 1,700 acres of cropland, 700 acres of pasture, 100 head of cow/calf pairs and 25 bred heifers. 

Like many farmers in eastern South Dakota, Brian’s father began implementing no-tillage into his operation in 1986 as a way of retaining soil moisture. 

“My dad was sick of seeing crops dry up in the summer,” Brian says. 

At that time, no-tillers had little information about what management practices worked. It took many trials to make the practice successful in their operations. 

“It was not a smooth transition,” Brian says. “My dad had to learn what equipment worked, how the timing worked and to have patience. It is so much easier for producers to start no-tilling today because others are willingly sharing what works for them on social media, and the technology is better.” 

Thirty-six years later, Brian sees clear benefits from no-till. Most years, the Johnsons’ farm…

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Katie Pratt

Contributing Writer

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