OLD RELIABLE. This Orthman 1tRiPr has been Tom Barcellos’ primary strip-till bar for over 20 years. He also uses a Bigham Super Duty strip-till bar on soils that require more tillage.  Photo: Noah Newman

No-Till, Strip-Till Lessen Load for Operation Cropping Year Round

Record corn silage yield in first year of no-till immediately sold farmer on conservation ag practices

Tom Barcellos is a conservation agriculture trailblazer on the West Coast. 

The Tipton, Calif., native was the first in his area to move away from the plow when he started no-tilling 26 years ago. Now, he estimates 60% of all corn production in his area is grown under conservation tillage practices. 

Barcellos remembers his no-till origin story like yesterday. 

“We were right in the middle of double cropping behind wheat forage and getting ready to plant corn for silage,” he recalls. “We were running 9 tractors in different fields when one of our main ones went down. There were no rentals available, and the neighbors were busy running their own. A friend in the seed business said to me, ‘There’s this no-till planter they’re talking about up north.’” 

It was a brand-new John Deere 10-row MaxEmerge no-till planter. Barcellos gave it a shot.

“We started in an irrigated field that was beginning to dry up,” he says. “We made 3 rounds, and my co-worker said, ‘Maybe it’s not going to work. This ground is too dry and tight.’ I looked at it and said, ‘Keep going.’

“We finished planting those 80 acres and started water right behind it. We had enough to germinate the seed as it grew 2-3 inches out of the ground 10 days later. We were amazed by the results.”

The 80-acre field yielded 27 tons per acre, shattering its previous high. Barcellos was immediately sold.

Strip-Till Switch

No-till was very beneficial, but Barcellos quickly found strip-till…

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Noah newman web

Noah Newman

Noah Newman started at Lessiter Media in March 2022 as Associate Editor for No-Till FarmerStrip-Till Farmer and Cover Crop Strategies. He previously worked in broadcast journalism as a sports anchor/reporter for television stations in central Illinois and most recently Jackson, Mississippi, where he was named the state’s sportscaster of the year by the National Sports Media Association. The Cleveland, Ohio, native looks forward to engaging with growers, learning extensively about their operations, and sharing impactful stories with the audience.

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