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“Everybody on your team needs to be committed to what you’re doing. I’ve often said that if you have negative people around you, you need to get different people because negativity drags you down, and you can’t have that. We’ve got to be positive and moving forward.”

— Rick Clark, No-Tiller, Warren County, Ind.

For this episode of the No-Till Farmer Influencers & Innovators Podcast, brought to you by Martin-Till, Indiana organic no-tiller Rick Clark explains why he thinks that sometimes, it’s best to think outside of the box in the world of no-till.

If you are interested in more no-till history, check out the newly released 448-page second edition of From Maverick to Mainstream: A History of No-Till Farming that includes 32 more pages than the first edition. Order your copy here.

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Full Transcript

Mackane Vogel:

Welcome to the No-Till Farmer Influencers and Innovators Podcast, brought to you by Martin-Till. I'm Mackane Vogel, assistant editor of No-Till Farmer. In today's episode, listen to Indiana organic no- tiller Rick Clark's presentation at the 2022 National No-Tillage Conference titled, If It's Not Wacky Enough, It May Not Work. Rick explains why sometimes it's best to think outside of the box in the world of no-till.

Rick Clark:

I start with this slide now on my presentations because this is very important. This is my family. You've got my beautiful wife there, Carol, two beautiful daughters and two beautiful grandchildren there. But what's important about this is you have to have everybody on your team committed to what you're doing. Okay? There is so much happening here. There are so many things that don't seem to be going right or correctly, and you need the support of everyone with you. I've often said that if you have negative people around you, you need to get different people because negativity drags you down and you can't have that. So we've got to be positive and moving forward. All right. Most of you know what these are, these six principles of soil health. Most of you know what they are, and I'm not going to spend a lot of time on this. I'm only going to talk about one of them, but I'm going to list them.

I have them listed in what I think is the most important order, and number one is minimize disturbance, and I've actually taken it to no disturbance. I think this is important. Tillage has to stop. It simply has to stop. Tillage is so damaging to the soil profile. We work hard to build soil health, to build the microbial community, and when you bring a piece of tillage through that microbial community, you destroy that community and it now cannot function at peak performance. We need the arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi, which are the communication backbone of the network, and we need that network working because there will be no transactions of minerals or nutrients without that fungi. So tillage has to stop in my opinion. Now, I think if I'm allowed to, I'd like to add one more. I would like to add commitment because if you are going to go down this road of no-till cover crop and then eventually eliminate inputs, you need total commitment and this is very important.

Now, I'm going to talk about briefly diversity. Those are cold tolerant peas planted into a wheat field. So let's set this up now. Diversity I look at in three different ways. If you are a beginner and you start doing some cover cropping and you use one or two species, that's great. To add diversity though, we need to get to where we're putting in 12, 13, 14, 15 species, but we have to have an exit plan. What is the termination plan of those cover crops? If you are still in a chemistry program, then the sky's the limit. You can use anything you want and the chemistry will take care of it for now. If you're not in a chemistry program like we are, we are in a total mechanical termination, you have to be careful now what species you plant because those species will come back and be very hard on your system.

For example, chicory. Chicory is a great species, but I cannot control it now in a mechanical situation, so we have to be careful. That's number one. Number two is annuals and perennials. I think too many times we make these cover crop cocktails and all they are are annuals. Well, there are so much that we don't know that's going on below our feet with this microbial biome. We don't know what they want or don't want, but I can tell you that diversity is king. So again, if you have a chemistry program in place, you've got to get perennials in your system and then eliminate them with the chemistry. Again, mechanically speaking, perennials are a problem. Chicory. Let's go back to chicory. We've got a couple fields that the chicory is pretty bad. I mean bad. It's hurt yield, it's a black eye. We're trying a couple things.

We're going to take one of those fields. We're going to build fence, we're going to graze livestock. We're going to try to run it down tight. I know that's against the grazing principles, but we're going to run it down tight and try to control the chicory with overgrazing. The second way we're going to try to control that chicory is we've put it in with alfalfa. So I'm hoping that clipping alfalfa every 27 days for five times in the growing season will get that chicory under control. I'll let you know the next time we meet, but that's the types of things we have to be concerned about. Number three, co-mingling cash crops. That's what's going on right here. Those are cold tolerant peas. Those particular peas were planted in December, so the wheat field was planted about September the 25th, October the first, somewhere in that area. We waited until the ground was just ready to freeze and we plant peas.

Okay, let's talk about the options here. Now, let's assume that we leave this alone. We just walk away now. So next spring's going to roll around, the wheat's going to come out of dormancy, it's going to take off. The peas are going to take off, and those two are going to grow together. We could do a couple things at this point depending on where you are, and if you remember back on the previous slide where I showed the principles, the one that was most recently added was context. This is important. I farm in west central Indiana. There are farmers from all over the spectrum in this room, so my context is different than your context. We have to keep this in mind. So here, let's say you've got a dairy or a cattle feedlot or some source of an animal that needs to consume protein in your neighborhood.

Go talk to those folks. Take this off as a wheatlage. So you're going to harvest this when it's high moisture, the peas are going to be at peak protein. Harvest these two together, put it in a bag, let it ferment, and you're going to raise that dairy's protein feed source by four or five or 6%. That's huge for a dairy. They care about protein immensely. That's one. Second way, let these two go to maturity. The wheat's going to mature in my neighborhood around July the first. The peas are going to be real close to that within three or four days. Harvest the two together and then again, go back to that dairy. Most dairies have a hammer mill. Take that product to a hammer mill. Hammer mill those peas down to a size that the cattle can consume in that ration. Again, raise the protein four, five, 6%. Or you take it to maturity, harvest them together and then separate them later.

Separating wheat and peas. That's easy. That's easy stuff. Few rotary screens, some shakers and you've got the two separated. So now you've taken off two cash crops in one acre by July the 10th in the state of Indiana. That's pretty good. Now, you could stop there, which is what I would recommend because when you live in Indiana or in this region, you don't get very many opportunities to plant warm season cocktails. This is your time to plant a warm season cocktail. So if you don't want to do that, now let's look at what that pea has done for us. It is approximately fixing two pounds of nitrogen per bushel of yield. Think about that. If those peas made 40, you've just now produced 80 pounds of nitrogen and that nitrogen is in a stable state that is going to be there for your next cash crop, whether you plant it today or you plant it next spring.

So maybe milo comes into play, maybe forage sorghum comes into play. You have options now because of this ability to co-mingle these cash crops, you're now setting the calendar off on July the 10th, let's say, to either A, start a massive cover crop of a warm season cocktail, or try to grow a third crop on a single acre in the state of Indiana in one season. That's unheard of. Same thing going on here. There's a picture of the wheat growing and I tried to get the phone down and take a picture of the peas growing with the wheat. Again, there are so many synergies that we don't understand yet, but if we don't do anything, then we'll never know what works or doesn't work. So we've got to try these things.

And again, I always preach, do not jeopardize the livelihood of your farm. You try this on 20 acres, on 40 acres, something reasonable, because the last thing I want to have happen is I get a phone call a year from now and say, "I heard you talk in Louisville and you said we could do this, this, and this, and it did not work."

Things don't always work. That group that was up here before me, that was awesome. Maybe what we need to do is have a conference one day of everything that went wrong instead of everything that we showed that does well. Take advantage of the free stuff. Most of us probably know what that is, photosynthesis. Why aren't we taking advantage of it? It's absolutely free. That source of energy from the sun is massive. It's all about pushing as much sugar and oxygen as we can into the soil profile. It's that simple. And let the microbes do everything else.

Now, I have had a slide in the past that shows the power of cereal rye. That's what this is, but I tweaked it. The folks before me alluded to it. Randall was the moderator there. He alluded to it. The price of inputs is out of control. Isn't it amazing how when you take a commodity that a farmer raises that's traded on the board of trade, and that commodity rallies, what happens to everything else that's associated to a farmer goes up. I think that might be the definition of price gouging. Well, I don't play that game anymore and I'm glad I don't. I don't know what stuff costs. Now, I do know now because I did an exercise here, but we have to try everything within our means to minimize the dependency on synthetic inputs. We have to. I love the question that was asked.

How many of you are using less fertilizer than your neighbors? I think over half the room raised their hand. That's awesome. Okay, 12-inch rye in our studies that we do on our farm, 12 inch-rye will sequester 82 pounds of N. That 82 pounds of N is the equivalent in today's nitrogen market to $65 and 60 cents of nitrogen. That's just 12-inch rye. That's probably the height of the rye of the majority of the world that gets burned to the ground because everybody's worried it's going to get out of control. So look what that's done for us in this environment. $29 of P and $86 worth of K for a total of those three major inputs of $181. Folks, I don't even have the sulfur, the boron, the manganese, the magnesium, everything else that's coming along with this soil analysis. We're just talking about the main three because the screen's only so wide. 18-inch rye, and by the way, to get from 12-inch rye to 18-inch rye is about four days.

Look at these numbers. This is why we have to become less dependent on synthetic inputs. 28-inch tall rye. It is now pulled in 134 pounds of nitrogen. Now let me back up. I didn't set this up properly. What we do, and any of you can do this, you go out in your field and you take a tape measure and you measure out a two foot by two foot square. You take shears, scissors, whatever you want to use, and you clip everything off at the ground inside that two foot by two foot square, put it in a bag and ship it to your lab. The reason why we're doing a two foot by two foot square, or you could do a three foot by three foot if you want, but the reason why you're doing that is to get the amount of an acre that you are sampling so when the data comes back, you can convert it to an acre basis and that's what we've done.

Now, I want to also point out that a lot of people say, "You can't plant corn into cereal rye." Yes, you can. I am not a proponent of the fact that cereal rye and corn have an allopathic effect against each other. I do not believe in that. I believe in the fact that cereal rye is a tremendous sequester of nutrients and cereal. Rye is taking those early nutrients away from that corn plant. Right there's the proof. So if we understand that, and if you are in a system that still uses some synthetic fertilizer, bring your nitrogen forward into this system and offset what's going on. Because folks, at that point, the carbon to nitrogen ratio was at least 70 to one. Dead rye sample was taken two months after it was terminated.

So now we've released almost all of the K. We're down to only $42 worth of K that's still left in that plant at two months. I think that is very powerful. So if you look at this 28-inch rye column and come over here to the total dollars that that plant has sequestered for us in today's value of nutrients, that is incredible. We are heading into year eight on our farm of zero inputs, no P, no K for eight years, no lime, nothing. I'm just trying to drive home that we can do this. Nitrogen is all around us and it is absolutely free. How come we don't take advantage of it? I'm sure most of you realize the air we breathe contains 71 or 78.1% nitrogen.

Let's let our cover crops work for us. Let's capture some of that in with legumes. One of the fallacies that I made early in my journey of this no-till cover crop, one of my biggest fallacies was I did not give the legume packages enough time in the spring to do their thing. I came out on April 28th and I'm walking around and I'm thinking, what in the world happened to my legumes that we planted last fall? I don't see anything here. Let's give up and we're going on. All I had to do was wait another week or 10 days and they just explode. So we have to give this stuff time.

Okay. Here's the same situation. On May 20th, a cocktail package, and we can go into details later, but it was just a cocktail package, and you also have to realize that in the system that our farm is in now, we are starting to accumulate volunteer about everything because everything we're doing is going to seed. When we terminate clover, it's already made seed, so we have to understand that we may have planted a 10 way cocktail, but there's going to be a little bit of volunteer chicory out there. There's going to be some volunteer cereal rye. There's going to be some volunteer this, volunteer that.

Okay, on May 20th, 75 pounds of N, 65 pounds of 1846.0 and 177 pounds of 0060. That's unreal. That is unreal. And look at the total dollars that those three nutrients add up to. June 4th, that legume package is now sequestered, or fixed 114 pounds of free nitrogen. So, "Rick, I don't want to plant corn on June the fourth." Okay, I get it. So let's go through a real quick scenario. Again, I'm going to go back to you are still using some chemistry. Plant your corn on May 21st, wait until June the eighth to terminate. Look at that, four days.

Look what four days can do for you. Can you believe that? Look at that total number, almost $800, folks, this is huge. Now, let's go back real quick to the peas, because one of the first questions I'll get, and I've already spoken to a lot of folks since I've been here, and a lot of the folks that I've spoken to live in the northern states, North Dakota, South Dakota, Wisconsin, it's cold. It gets cold early. Rick, I can't plant your wonderful legume package because it'll never survive. I get that. Cold tolerant peas will. I mean, think what we've done with these cold tolerant peas. We have widened our window of opportunity by 30 to 45 days now.

You would give up on a legume cocktail package where I live, September the 20th, maybe October 1st. Maybe. Then it's over because it's not going to, you're wasting your money. The pea will let you go all the way into December. July 24th would be... This particular cover crop, this legume cocktail was terminated on this June the eighth because that's the day I planted corn. And then here is my math. So this cocktail costs $33 an acre to accumulate that kind of revenue. To me, I think this is very powerful. We need to let the legumes work for us.

I know it's very difficult, but we do not plant corn until after Mother's Day and this kind of shows you why. We try to do all of our beans first. I went to a major university, I was taught by them. I was taught by my father, corn is king. You have to do whatever you can to plant corn. I don't care what you do. Plant corn and beans are secondary crop. That is wrong. Plant your beans first and we are finding out that the beans need more maximum time of photosynthesis. Plant beans first. Come back and let this power work for you and then plant corn.

Mackane Vogel:

We'll come back to the episode in a moment, but first, I'd like to thank our sponsor, Martin-Till for supporting today's podcast. As farmers themselves, the people at Martin-Till know the frustration that unforeseen obstacles can bring, especially the weather. While no one can control drought or untimely rains, Martin-Till can help equip your planter to allow for more time spent planting and less time waiting to get seed in the ground. Thank you for considering Martin-Till products and now let's get back to the episode.

Rick Clark:

Epigenetics. This is where we're headed, folks. Epigenetics. We are no longer in the game of buying the latest and greatest genetics because I'm telling you in our system they don't work. We have lost the association of the mycorrhizal fungi. So what we have done, we've gone back and we have purchased genetics that are off patent. We've grown them out and we're now planting those offspring on our farm and they're going to stay there and we are going to use epigenetics and we are going to make our genetics work within our system. I think this is where it's headed because I've seen this too many times and I'm not going to mention any companies and I'm not putting anybody down. All I'm talking about are facts. Facts are, when I put out a test plot in our system of corn and they bring me the latest and greatest genetics they've got, they are at the bottom of the list every single time.

So that tells me that there's something not communicating here, so we're going to go back in time. So that's what we've done. We've gone back with our soybean program. We will have those beans here this spring, coming to be the first round of beans that are going to be off pat. These genetics are 35 years old. We're doing the same thing with corn. Corn right now is being grown out in South America and those grow outs will be coming back to here and then we're going to grow them out again here in the United States, and next spring, not the '22, but '23, we will have corn that we are going to raise on our farm and keep it going through epigenetics. Now, this is a lot of work because now you're talking about detasseling and all this, but that's okay. Nothing comes easy. But I want to go a little step further with this epigenetics idea.

Let's think about microbes for just a moment. I've never used bugs in a jug. What's the word I want? Biologicals. I've never used them because I've always felt that we are growing our own biology. So now instead of introducing a strain that has no business being in your soil profile, keep the microbes you have in your profile and let them take advantage and let them adapt to the system that you are giving them. I think that's real. I mean, I've seen changes on our farm that are now happening exponentially. Aggregate stability is very easy to measure. Used to be two three inches deep. Within two years it went to seven or eight inches deep.

That just didn't happen just because we haven't tilled this soil in years, and this is where I think everything's headed. But read that. Heritable phenotype changes that do not involve alterations in the DNA sequence. And I'll tell you what got me thinking about this, and I'm telling you I don't care, I don't have any new ideas. Think about our grandparents and how they used to farm and think about what they used to do. They had four crop rotations. They had wheat, they had clover, they had corn and they had beans. The clover was baled to feed the horses that was the power. Then the clover was turned under to be the nitrogen for next year's corn crop.

We're just taking the tillage out of the equation, but I'm thinking back when I was 18 or 19 years old and dad says, "Get the truck. Get that straight truck out and get the wagons out. The weather's perfect today. The beans are 13% and we're going to cut our seed beans today." This is before Roundup so we could legally then run these beans. And by the way, everything I just talked about epigenetics, you cannot do that with the current genetics. You're breaking the law. You've got to go back to genetics that are off patent. But anyway, Dad says, "We're going to cut our seed beans. And I'm like, "Dad, why are we doing that?"

"Well, because we're making this bean adapt to our farm."

That was 40 years ago, had this conversation with Dad. This is real stuff. You can't do that. Oh, yes I can. I sacrifice yield to maintain soul health. I do it every single day. Do we have a train wrecks on our farm? You better believe it. We also have situations that are, wow, we can do this. Grow the nitrogen you need with legumes or cocktails that include each of the four categories. There is a great, great podcast you have to listen to. Keith Berns at Green Cover Seed had Dr. Christine Jones on for four episodes. Check it out. Dr. Christine Jones knocks it out of the park. She talks about if you get the proper cocktail sequence together, there are enough microbes within the soil profile to fix all of the nitrogen that you need.

Wow, that's hardcore stuff. Green Cover Seed, Dr. Christine Jones. Plant green in the living cover crops. Do it all the time. It's okay to have 23 plans, folks. I in 2021, I went through the alphabet. I started over with capital letters. That's part of what I was talking about at the beginning, the negativity. I mean when you get through the alphabet on plans, you're kind walking around like, I can't do anything right anymore. But you got to understand we are doing things that are extreme and we are constantly working with Mother Nature and she is constantly pushing hard back. Park your planter no matter the date. I don't care what your neighbors are doing. Do not be in your field until the field's fit to be in.

Do not plant corn in April again. I hope I never do. Plant multiple cash crops in the same field. I've already talked about that. Totally eliminate all inputs. We've eliminated everything. We still use a little bit of solid cattle manure on our alfalfa fields because when you take five cuttings of alfalfa a year off, you are removing everything. You have to bring something back and let me talk a little bit about that too. Legumes can be hard on soil profile. When you put that much nitrogen into the profile, everything's out of balance now. So what we've started to do when we know that a field of alfalfa is going to come out, like let's say in the fall of '21, the Smith 120, that's the last year for alfalfa.

We'd go in and plant 60 pounds of cereal rye, knowing that we're going to terminate that field next spring. I want to get that grass introduced now to help offset this massive nitrogen event that's been taking place. It's just things like that. We have to, and I think if you've got the opportunity, you put out 10 things. You put out sorghum Sudan, you put out radish, you put out cow peas, sun hemp, sunflower. No CFAP, government subsidy payments in 2020. None. Eliminate crop insurance four years ago, no longer any government programs, ARC or PLC. Regen acres. That's okay. Let's go back to the northern guys and gals.

"Rick, my window's too short. It's too cold. We can't get this done." I get it. I get it. Regen is when you take an acre out of production and you give it everything you possibly can. You start off with a cool season cocktail, then you come back with a warm season cocktail, then you set it up with the cocktail you want to raise next year's corn crop. Corn's the hard one. Getting the right cocktail at the right time ahead of corn is difficult. This gives you that opportunity. "Rick, how can you take an acre out of production? How do you do that?" Well, that's hard, but you can no longer look at a single year snapshot in time. You have to now look at this as an average across your rotation. And by the way, we're up to seven crops now and our neighbors farm too.

Corn and soybeans. I'm not even going to call it a rotation. They just farm two crops. So when you look at the grand scheme of things and you take this out over a seven year period, regen makes more sense. To truly be regenerative, you have to take everything away. Now, that's very, very drastic, but this is part of the problem today. We've talked previously to this presentation. Folks have talked a little bit about carbon markets. I'm telling you right now, if you're going to participate in a carbon market, you better go back to I think my second or third slide and it shows the six principles of soil health. You're going to have to abide by at least five of those. Now, the livestock, that's for some people and it's not for others. I understand that. But you are not going to play in these carbon markets until you abide by those somewhat of those principles.

So I'm very extreme. I've taken everything away. That's fine. I'm way over there. Meet me right here, and let's minimize our inputs by 50%. Let's go to full no tillage and let's minimize our chemistry by 50%. We're planting corn into standing alfalfa. Now, folks, this is almost suicide. I'm asking you to plant a warm seasoned grass, which is corn into an established perennial, alfalfa. But isn't that beautiful? That's the baby right there. That's the 60-foot INJ roller crimper. So at V-2, we're going to roll that field flat.

Now, we know that's not going to terminate alfalfa. I'm not sure you can terminate alfalfa because we've got it coming back in fields that I thought was gone three years ago. But anyway, what we're trying to do is give the corn a fighting chance. So we've laid this alfalfa flat, the corn's at V-2. You're not going to hurt corn at V-2. Remember, 40 years ago when the chemistry was being applied by the co-op, what'd they bring out in the field? They brought out a big three wheeler with big fat tires and the corn was this tall and they drove over it. It all stood back up. You're not going to hurt that corn. And then what we're trying to do is get the corn out and see daylight and take off.

Now, when the corn gets to canopy, we're going to start to crush this alfalfa. We are on 20 inch row spacing, corn, 20 inch row spacing, beans. I think when we have to change equipment like update planters, update corn heads, I think I'm going to go to 15 inch, because we need the canopy of the cash crop to help suppress our weeds. Remember, we have no more easy button to push of chemistry, so this corn will come up, take off, get the canopy at about V-6. When you walk out into this cornfield on the first day of August, the alfalfa looks like it was attacked by weevils. It's yellow, dropping leaves and it's folding.

If you can get the canopy quick enough and get the corn growing, you will absolutely terminate the alfalfa. I know that seems crazy, but field after field after field that we do this in, when you combine, you can't see any alfalfa. You don't see any alfalfa the next spring, but now I need someone to help me with this, but we're now in year three on when we first tried this and there's alfalfa growing in these fields again, but it's not growing where I would've thought it would've grown. It's growing on the hilltops, not down in the valleys, so I don't understand that. We got to figure that out.

That's kind of a little bit about what I'm going to talk about tomorrow. Input reductions. I just quickly run this up here. I know I'm preaching to the choir on this one because a lot of you folks are already no tilling and you're already reducing stuff, but this is just pretty right in your face stuff. We've reduced our fuel by almost 50%. We've reduced synthetic fertilizer to zero, mapped to zero potash, lime and chemistry. All those are now zero on our farm. So when you now put that into today's dollars, that fuel savings is 58,000, synthetic ends, 433. Map, 207. Potash, 233. Lime, 102. Chemistry. And that's roughly what we are saving on our farm. Now, these are averages folks because sometimes we might raise 4,000 acres of corn and then next year we raise 1,500 acres of corn.

I take the average of the synthetic end, the map and all that, and we get to this. This is why, if you've heard me talk, I talk about yield is not what drives our system. It's about ROI. Now, I know that you have to know what yield is to calculate ROI. I know that, but that's where it ends. Do we want to have yield? Yes, we want to have yield, but it's all about soil health and it's all about human health. As soil health goes up, so does human health. 30% less nutrient density in our food than 25 years ago. That is absurd.

I thought we lived in one of the greatest nations in the world and we're going to allow that to happen. Our soils are tired and wore out and dependent on synthetic fertilizers. It is a vicious cycle. Human health thrives when soil health thrives, it all starts with the health of your soil. Then everything happens from that point on. Soybeans, this is what I'm talking about, about planning soybeans first April 27th, and this varies from year to year. What we're looking for is the growth stage of cereal rye. It's at boot stage. The reason why this works is because now there's the baby again rolling that rye flat. The reason why this works is there's 45 days approximately between boot and anthesis. Anthesis is when pollen is being dropped, the lignin is at the highest point in the cereal rye's plant, and now this roller terminates that cereal rye.

Look at the pollen flying off. So now, instead of going out and waiting for your ride to be terminated on June, that's a little late to be planting soybeans. We now have moved our calendar back 45 days and we're planting in April, which works perfect because I don't want to plant corn before Mother's Day.

Cocktail packages prescribed for weeded problems. I am a firm, I think we're doing this now. We just don't know it. I think we're going to be sitting down with an agronomist and they're going to say, "I want you to answer these 10 questions. Give me the most history you can about the cash crops you've been raising. What are the three biggest weeded issues you have? What's your next cash crop going to be and where do you live? And this is what you're going to plant for a cocktail."

Again, I don't think there's allopathic effects. I think it's the fact of taking nutrients away. When you go back to that cereal rye, when you come to our farm in the spring, we do not have a broad leaf problem. We haven't used chemistry in eight years. Some of these fields, 10. It's foxtail now though, but there's reasons why we have foxtail. We're starting to hone in on how to handle the foxtail. Nutrient density goes up as soil health goes up. There are no failures. That word is too negative. I know there are people that disagree with me, but I do not say that word. It's too negative. Outcomes we did not expect, and how are you not going to repeat them?

Carbon markets will require soil health practices. My 20 second spiel on carbon markets is I wish they were scoring all this on a soil health basis, not a metric that measures an element that you can't even measure accurately and repeatedly. Do not underestimate the power of networking. There are tremendous speakers at this event this year, like every other year. There are tremendous farmers in this room. Seek people out. Go out in the hall, go have your conversations. I'm going to ask my question I always ask right now, who's been no-tilling for more than 30 years? Wow.

Would you stand up? Please stand up. I want everybody to see this. Now, hang on. 40 years? Wow. What state are you from?

Audience Member 1:


Rick Clark:

Ohio. Find this lady.

Audience Member 2:

This is Bill Richard's granddaughter.

Rick Clark:

Bill Richard's granddaughter. This is the lady you need to be talking to. That's who you network with. Who over here? What state? Kentucky. Ohio. Pennsylvania.

Audience Member 3:


Rick Clark:

Idaho. Folks, find these people. Because one of the excuses I always get is, "Rick, I don't know who to talk to. Who do I talk to?" I just showed you a room of about 40 people that have been no-tilling for more than 30 years.

That's impressive. Network. Unfortunately, a farmer's success is measured by yield. That is so wrong. Soil health, human health. Are you socially accepted in your community? Family life? All of these things are much more important than, wow, I got the best yield. But did you make any money? Well, no, I didn't make any money, but I won the yield contest.

Diversity is essential. More biomass, the better. Continue to Haney soil health test. In my opinion, this is the best test that we can use today to see where we are headed. And folks, you have to be baselining your farm. Please. I plead with you. You've got to collect your data. You've got to baseline your farm and you've got to see where you're headed. You don't have any idea to know where you're going until you know where you've been.

You're going to hear a lot of great people talk about a lot of great things. You're going to take some of these things home and you're going to try them, but how are you going to know if they're working or not unless you baseline where you are today, write down all your inputs, all your expenses, everything, and then see what it looks like in two years. Establish a baseline to monitor change. Test on your own farm. I'm standing up here telling you a lot of the things that we have done are working. That doesn't mean they are going to work in Idaho. Context.

What part of Idaho? Desert or moisture?

Audience Member 4:

Southeastern corner. Little moisture.

Rick Clark:

Southeastern. Yeah.

Audience Member 4:

15 inches.

Rick Clark:

15 inches. That's tough. I know we're we're running out of time. I know. I got 48 seconds. Do not jeopardize the livelihood of your farm. Remember, the people who are being talked about are the ones who are creating the change. Change is good. The success of next year's cash crop starts with the success of this year's cover crop. Do not make excuses that support your agenda. We do it every single day. 70, 30 rule. 70% of weeded suppression is coming from the cover crop and 30% of the weed suppression is coming from the cash crop canopy. That's how important the cover crop package is.

Tillage has to stop. Opinions are based on perception. Man, I wish I had another hour. Everybody at home just drives by, "Look what that idiot's doing out there. Look what that wacky guy's doing out there. He's going to fail. He doesn't know what he's doing. We can't do that." They're basing everything on a perception of them driving by. They haven't even cared to stop and climb in the tractor with me, and I would invite anybody to do that.

Find genetics that are mycorrhizal in nature. You're going to have to go back in time. I am concerned that the association with arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi is being bred out of the current genetics, and that is a very important association that we can't lose. We need to start looking at stimulants that turn the microbes back on. Now, these are not biologicals. These are items that we're going to incorporate in our plan to wake up the microbes that have been lazy and gone to sleep because they haven't had a job. When you keep pumping on synthetic fertilizer, there's a certain group of microbes in that biome that are just on vacation because there's nothing to do, so we got to wake them up. If you are not uncomfortable with what you are doing, then you are not trying hard enough to change. I do not care what your profession is.

We have to get a little uncomfortable. I think you'll like the way it feels. I am proud to be a farmer, but I am way more proud of the way I farm. I call it regenerative organic stewardship with no tillage. Thank you very much.

Mackane Vogel:

That's it for this episode of the No-Till Farmer Influencers and Innovators Podcast. Thanks to Rick Clark for that great presentation and thanks to our sponsor, Martin-Till for helping to make this podcast possible. A transcript and video of this episode and our archive of previous podcast episodes are both available at For our entire staff here at No-Till Farmer, I'm Mackane Vogel. Thanks for listening. Keep on no-tilling and have a great day.