Luther Berntson, known as the "evangelist of no-till" in the Dakotas, passed away in early March at the age of 91.
Berntson grew up near Adams, N.D., and took over the farm in 1960, according to his obituary. An "out-of-the-box thinker," Berntson was an early adopter of new farming equipment, practices and crops.
"Perhaps his greatest contribution to farming and his legacy will be his early adaption of no- till farming practices and sustainable agriculture," his obituary reads.
Berntson was an active member of the Manitoba/North Dakota No-Till Association, and The Fargo Forum referred to him as an evangelist of no-till farming. Paul Berntson, Luther's nephew, told AgWeek that his uncle was laughed at, joked about and called crazy in the 1970s when farmers were first trying to figure out how to make no-till work with limited equipment, weed control and residue management options.
“Luther and these other guys just came to the conclusion ... there’s got to be a better way to farm without having all this erosion," Paul tells AgWeek. "Our most precious asset is our top soil, and they dedicated themselves to save it.”
Paul says Luther spent most of a winter working on his air seeder, making depth control wheels in order to control seed depths. Luther also bought a combine and spreader that would spread the chaff across the entire width of the header — a vast improvement to allow the residue to break down evenly.
Joe Breker, a No-Till Innovator who farms in Havana, N.D., says he began learning from Luther early on, and Luther shaped the way he would farm for the next 43 years.
“Luther was more than willing to take me under his wing and share with me whatever he knew and ponder what he didn’t,” Breker says.
Luther was awarded the Outstanding Young Farmer of North Dakota 1963. In 1997, he was awarded Pioneer of the Year for making a significant contribution to agriculture. In the mid-1990s, he made four trips to eastern Europe to help farmers with no-till.