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By Tyler Zimmerman, as interviewed by Martha Mintz
Spending less money on everything is ultimately what drives farm decisions. It’s what led me to shift my 2,500-acre operation in Leonard, N.D., to no-till and cover crops and may eventually take me to no-till organic production. There’s money to be saved with those systems — and plenty of money to be earned!
Not having to invest in more 4WD tractors and tillage equipment were great upfront savings when I made the switch to no-till. I continue to shave costs by investing in soil health, which has allowed me to run essentially zero nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P) or potassium (K) on most of my crops. I’ve dropped N rates by 80% on corn. I did use a little bit of N on oats and 30 units of N on flax in 2022, but mostly I’m banking on what nutrients soil biology can deliver.
Bumping crop rotations from just corn and soybeans to around 10 species and incorporating cover crops has substantially boosted activity in my soils. Different harvest times allow me to diversify further as I’m able to establish cover crops on those early harvested acres. To truly build soil health and promote soil life, however…