Play the latest episode:


Brought to you by:

Source by Sound Agriculture

“We have to do more than feed the world because how we feed the world is incredibly important.”

— Joel Reddick, No-Tiller, Bardwell, Ky.

For this episode of the No-Till Farmer Influencers & Innovators Podcast, brought to you by SOURCE® from Sound Agriculture, Joel Reddick, a young Kentucky no-tiller, talks about his family’s operation and how they’ve been successful with 100% no-till for 5+ years. The Reddicks also have cover crops on 100% of their acres and have been referred to by some as the “pioneers of planting green.”

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.

Related Content


No-Till Farmer‘s No-Till Influencers & Innovators Podcast podcast is brought to you by SOURCE®️ by Sound Agriculture.

More from this series

SOURCE®️ from Sound Agriculture is a soil activator that gives crops access to a more efficient source of nitrogen and phosphorus. A foliar application of SOURCE provides 25 pounds of nitrogen & phosphorus per acre and enhances micronutrient uptake by stimulating beneficial microbes, and its performance is supported by a cash-back guarantee. Learn more at


Full Transcript

Mackane Vogel:

Welcome to the No-Till Farmer Influencers and Innovators Podcast, brought to you by Source from Sound agriculture. I'm Mackane Vogel, Assistant Editor of No-Till Farmer. In today's episode, listen to a presentation from the National No-Tillage Conference by Joel Reddick, a young Kentucky no-tiller who talks about his family's operation and how they've been successful with 100% no-till for five plus years.

Joel Reddick:

I'm here to talk to you about our experiences the last several years. When I say we, I'm talking about my dad. He's up here in the audience. Very glad to have him here and to do all this together. We attended our first No-Till Conference in 2018 in Louisville, Kentucky. So we've been here at the conference every year for five years and it's kind of the source of where our journey kick started. We've been dabbling in a few things with no-till and cover crops prior to that, but we really kicked it into gear a little later on in 2018 with cover crops and planting green in particular. So we'll get right in. So this is our family. When I say we, I'm referring to this is my grandparents in the middle there, my parents in the left and then my two brothers on the ends. That's my wife there beside me on the right.

So that's our team. We've got three generations currently on the family farm. We've been in the county for seven generations and farming for most of that time. And I wanted to start by saying I'm very grateful for all the generations that have come before me. I'm standing on the shoulders of other men and I'm only 25. I don't know much yet, but I'm learning very quickly and I'm learning through good people before me and a lot of people in this room as well. We're all learning together and I'm standing on the shoulders of better men. Reddick Farms. So we are in western Kentucky. We're straight down the Mississippi River from here about three hours. So we're right where the Ohio and the Mississippi Rivers meet. You'll find our farm about 10 or 15 miles from there. We get quite a bit of heat in the summertime and it always rains.

Seems to rain too much in April, not enough in July. So that's one of the main reasons that we started cover cropping. We're on 1600 acres of row crops and we've got corn, beans and wheat in a rotation and that's our typical lineup. We have raised some grain sorghum in the past if the basis is right, but we've got zero to 6% slope on the majority of our farms. We've got half creek bottom land and half highly erodable hill ground. So we've got a good mix of both. Out of that 1600 acres, about a hundred acres is pivot irrigated, so we have very limited irrigation. We have four boiler houses, poultry houses that you can see there in the picture. We've got beef cattle as well on a separate farm from most of our row crops. We've got cow calf [inaudible 00:02:55] on approximately 200 acres of perennial pasture.

So why we use no-till and cover crops. There's a lot of different definitions of success that you can find today in agriculture and ever since in 2011, I joined the FFA. It was in high school and that's the first time that I remember hearing the slogan. It was probably from Monsanto or something like that that we have to feed the world. And that is a noble challenge and I don't want to downplay that. We are responsible for the food and fiber that a lot of people depend on and we have a lot of people that we have to serve in that way. But I think moving forward we have to do more than feed the world because how we feed the world is incredibly important. We can maximize bushels. We can maximize gross production with tillage, with intensive fertilizer inputs with pesticides. We can use these tools to maximize production.

But I think that as stewards of the land, and that's what I see myself as first and foremost as a steward of the land and creating a bountiful crop is part of that. It's our job to do well and to do well by a bushels per acre standpoint because what we're in the business of. However, how we do that is right there neck and neck in terms of importance. We are ecosystem managers, not just farmers. We are responsible for the majority of our wildlife in our area and all of our conservation goals. We're the ones that have to implement that. The people in the cities, they don't have skin in that game. We're the ones controlling the majority of the land and it's our responsibility to take care of it. That is in a nutshell why we use no-till and cover crops because those two things first and foremost help us manage our land holistically and manage it well.

First, we have erosion and we typically have a lot of it. So the picture doesn't do this justice. This is a '93 Chevy 1500 pickup that you see the hood of and you could line maybe 60 of them up end to end and bury them in that hole and fill it over level and then it'd be flat. It's 10 years of tillage and minimal crop rotation. This is usually soybeans on soybeans. This is actually a farm of ours that we have picked up and are now in the process of remediating you might say. We get 50 inches of rainfall annually. That's [inaudible 00:05:23] 50 inches of monocrop soybeans where the cultivator pass every spring will do for you. And this is unchecked and by unchecked I mean it doesn't have any forms of conservation. Obviously, it's not a waterway. There's no erosion control structures, there's no silt dams, there's no terraces or anything like that.

They never plowed them in. They just let them go. This is kind of a unique scenario, but this is the worst example of erosion that I've seen in our area because we are blessed with a lot of rain, but sometimes that blessing does a lot of damage when it's not held well in the soil. So I think this is just a very glaring example, but this is a lot more common across this country and it comes in different forms. There's wind erosion, there's water erosion, but this is just kind of disturbing because they didn't even disc it in. Everybody else discs it in. I think it's still happening. It just doesn't get to this point because this was over 10 years without any intervention with a bulldozer or anything like that. So this is why we're doing this. This is not a terribly steep farm.

We definitely farm steeper. Our soils are typically 10 to 15 CECs. This farm is more like 1% organic matter. We've got some farms creeping up on three and our soils are mostly silt. There's not a high clay content really, and I almost wish we had a little more clay because I think the clay would stick together better because 50 inches of water hits this and it falls apart. So a little bit more organic matter, a little bit more clay would probably help us, but we are very susceptible to water erosion and no tilling cover crops make a significant difference in holding our soils and holding our water. Water infiltration, it's one of the first things that we noticed after just a couple of years of planting green, large biomass cover crops, multispecies, we're planting corn and beans in the green and this is run off water from the same rain event.

Our field on the right, it was planted a little bit later. As you can see, it's not quite shoulder tall. I don't know what the exact growth stage is, but this is late June when I took this picture. The picture on the right, there's about 20 acres above this watershed. This ditch is the bottom of a 20 acre watershed on a part of our farm, and as you can see, there's a little bit of clear water here in the very bottom. This is a two and a half inch rainfall at the very end of June. I'm not very old, but I know a two and a half inch rainfall at the very end of June is worth a lot of money. This year in our area it was worth hundreds of thousands of dollars, millions of dollars for the county. Our field kept most of that water.

As you can see, it's crystal clear and there's very little of it. Just catty-corner to this, it's an adjacent property. These pictures were taken about 40 seconds apart because that's how fast I could drive over there and our neighbors, it's fully anhydrous. It's a vertical tillage every spring. It was planted early like April 9th. That's relatively early for us. And as you can see, they've got a lot of nutrients, a lot of water, a lot of soil leaving that farm. I don't know how theirs yielded. I don't know how their profitability looks like. They may have made really good corn. They probably did. In fact, we got pretty decent rains that summer. This wasn't the last rain that summer. This was 2021. It was a pretty successful year across the county by all standards. However, ours... We made good corn, we made good money and we did it with minimal ecosystem negative impacts.

That's kind of what we're going to. We're tweaking cover crops, we're tweaking fertility, we're tweaking roller crimping. We're trying to figure out how we can replicate this with good ROI with great profitability. Not necessarily great yields. I don't think it takes great yields to make great profitability and especially when you count all these other ecosystem services that we're performing. We're cleaning the water, we're providing habitat for game birds on this particular property. The owner's son is really big into quail and pheasant hunting and it's good for that property. It's good for that landlord. That landlord likes us, so there's lots of other benefits to managing this way. Weeds is the next region. We are doing this. This picture of the left I took. You can't see the products there, but I'll read them to you. This was in 2019, I believe it was fairly early on when Xtend just came out.

This is University of Kentucky Demonstration Plot showcasing different types of herbicide programs. As you can see there, there's a pre-emerge burn down with three different modes of action, right there. There is a post emerge application with four or five... I think that's four modes of action in one adjuvant. And then there's a late post with Liberty and Roundup as well. Altogether in 2019 dollars, which is not the same as 2020 dollars because these dollars don't get you near as far. This was an $85 an acre program and now as you can see, they've got excellent weed control. But it seems like every year since then I've seen more and more research about increasingly resistant weeds, increasingly ineffective herbicides, and there's not new tools coming down the pipe in any real timeline. I mean they're eight years, 10 years out, but that doesn't help us in 2023. We started exploring after 2018 alternative weed control options, and we were planting really big biomass cover crops.

We're chasing the combine with a drill for the last four or five years, and we try to get every acre as quickly as we can with as many species as are reasonable. If you're going out in December, you don't need a 15 species cocktail. It's not practical, but we typically have six to eight to 10 on every acre every year, and we customize that blend for the farm's needs. If erosion is a really big factor, I'm going to throw in some more grasses. If we're going to corn, I'm going to have a lot more legumes because I want to take a nitrogen credit for that. But we have been roller crimping for several years now. This is actually Mr. Jerry Perry's roller crimper up here that we started out using and since then we bought our own and we're still learning. I'll say that we're always learning, but we're finding more and more success with the roller crimping.

This cover crop costs us about 30, $35 an acre in seed, $10 or so to plant is what we figure. And then this roller crimping doesn't cost hardly anything, five or $8 a pass. We're doing this on nearly every acre and this replaces a burn down pass. This replaces a pre-emerge pass every single year. If you can get anywhere close to this kind of biomass, you're cutting two herbicide passes immediately. So you're at a cost savings there. Maintaining fertility, we've got four poultry houses as you saw. There's lots of poultry houses in our immediate area, so litter is fairly common. It's harder today to get because the dry fertilizer prices are so high, the litter is usually unavailable. Sources that we used to use are going somewhere else because everybody wants it. It's a very complete fertilizer source and that's been the base of our fertility plan for longer than I've been helping.

We've had those bonds for 20 years. So a lot of my granddad's land, they're [inaudible 00:12:44] has had chicken litter every other year for 20 years. It's built up quite well. And now we're actually backing off on some of those acres and putting them on newer renting ground that is weaker. So we apply this chicken litter in the fall if we can. Labor's usually tight in the fall, so it happens in the winter in the early spring more often than not because that's when I'm out of the cover crop drill and I can spread the litter ourselves. The cover crops can get absolutely outrageously huge with Kentucky's heat and rains and chicken litter.

This might be the biggest biomass we've ever planted through. It's kind of a toss up. We've had two or three scenarios like this. I'm about five foot 10, and that hairy vetch continued to grow for another week before it got dry enough to plant actually. This was our last field in, I believe it was 2020. May have been 2021, I can't remember, but it was outrageously huge. We've got [inaudible 00:13:45]. I'll give a shout out to them. Their cover crop devastator is on a corn planter. We'll look at that here in a second. But this is not uncommon. You do have to tweak your planter, your drill to be able to do this. Closing wheels are very important. Being able to get that seed trench closed through all that biomass. You're not going to do it with a factory one, if I had to guess.

And in this biomass in the cover crops paired with the chicken litter nearly eliminates any nutrient loss because putting out a raw manure in the wintertime or six months in advance for your cash crop is kind of a liability environmentally mostly. I mean there's lots of water districts around the country now that are very tight on how much you can apply when you can apply, how you apply. So we feel that the cover crops are soaking up whatever nutrients are readily available and also protecting them from physical movement with the heavy rains that we do tend to get in the spring months. So those cover crops will grow. They will take up available nutrients from the litter and from the soil, and then they will decompose and recycle those for later use. And we're dialing it in on when that's available and we'll get to that in just a second.

So what tools do we use? Diving into the different species, I've got them laid out on my car hood here. We've got barley, oats, cereal, rye and tread kayley. Those are our four main grasses and we do tweak those from year to year as circumstances allow and dictate. We're moving heavier to cereal rye just because it has better weed control. It's higher carbon to nitrogen versus the oats and the barley. It's easier to roller crimp cereal rye, roller crimps very well after anthesis, and if you're up north, anthesis may be well into May, so there's different planting opportunities there. But for us, Aprils are typically so wet that we're not really in the field anyway and come May 1st, May 5th, May 10th, this stuff has passed anthesis and we can kill it with a roller crimper pretty easily regardless of the planting date. So legumes, we are much heavier on legumes going to corn and my favorite one, I think so right now it changes year to year, is the [inaudible 00:15:57].

It's got a stem about as big around as your pinky finger and it's hollow like a straw. So that roller crimper can absolutely obliterate it. I mean it crushes it with no water in the rollers. It fixes a very large amount of nitrogen comparable to hairy vetch most of the time, and it can be roller crimped at five inches tall or five feet tall and anywhere in between. It's not specific to growth stage. You can crimp it on a dime. It was actually developed and bred for organic corn producers because your nitrogen sources are obviously limited with organic, so having a clover that could be roller crimped and killed very easily mechanically is the background that it's kind of developed in. We got Austrian winter peas, hairy vetch, crimson clover, and then berseem clover there on the end. Berseem's good if you've got cattle, it's got more available protein.

It's digestible. It's a little more expensive than any of the other legumes, but it is a good source of nutrition for cattle. Crimson clover if you're wanting to get your foot in the door, I have yet to see crimson clover die. I'm in western Kentucky, so we don't get super cold usually, but it does over winter extremely well. It's got good palatability, it's consistent and it's small, so it's not very intimidating. Hairy vetch is more of an intermediate level of difficulty you might say. It can get quite aggressive and if you've got more than three or four pounds out there and it rains and it gets away from you, that's how you get six, seven foot tall hairy vetch because it will climb the grasses, it will climb anything that it can until it pulls it down and then you've got a pretty big mess. So hairy vetch does require a little bit more management, requires you got to watch your rate on the pounds per acre of seed quite a bit.

Mackane Vogel:

We will come back to the episode in a moment, but first I'd like to thank our sponsor, Source from Sound Agriculture for supporting today's podcast. If you want to make your fertilizer plan more efficient, source it. Source from Sound agriculture optimizes the amount of crop nutrition supplied by the microbes in your soil, providing 25 pounds of nitrogen and phosphorus per acre. It's cost-effective and easy to use. Just throw it in the tank and spray in season. If you want to unlock your crop's potential and increase ROI, there's only one answer, source it. Learn more at And now let's get back to the episode.

Joel Reddick:

Roller crimpers. We've got two different options. We've got roller crimpers mounted onto our corn planter Yetter cover crop devastator here, and we like that pretty well. As you can see, it does a pretty good job. At this stage, this is my farm in 2022. We had no herbicide on that at all where I sprayed five acres on the end rows because there was much higher weeded pressure on the end rows at around V4 timing than out in the middle of the field, but it's had almost no herbicide for two years because the roller crimper and the cover crops were doing a good job. I mean it's 90, 95% clean with just the cover crop being flattened down and smothering it. So there's a really powerful tool to combat resistance.

It's definitely a good tool to have and it's not applicable to all geographies, but I think especially further south, the more heat you get, the more water you get, the earlier, the bigger your cover crops are going to be. I think guys should take advantage of this because it's locking in moisture for later in the year. We get too much rain in April, so it gives us that big gully erosion. We get too dry in July. This helps mitigate soil temperatures, helps regulate soil evaporation, water evaporation. So it definitely helps on so many different factors. We like the pull top roller crimper on beans. You can go before the planter, after the planter at an angle of the row and it doesn't really matter. It's more flexible in your timing. We have played with crimping timing a little bit. It depends on your planning date.

For us, we typically don't have enough heat for the cover crop to be of a sufficient size to crimp and kill. And so after May 1st or so, it depends on the year, it's all GDU driven. So when I throw out dates, that's just kind of on average, it's not a hard and fast date. On a warm year, it could be two, three weeks earlier. So you got to pay attention to the GDU and the cover crop growth stage if you're determining appropriate crimping timing. But we have crimped at planting same day as planting. We've crimped 20, 30, 40 days after they... I haven't pushed it past first trifoliate, second trifoliate that window because after that, the stems start to get a little more lignum in them and you can't break the stems. But before first trifoliate, [inaudible 00:20:46] stage, they'll be quite pliable and that crimper can just roll over them and they'll get right back up and it's not an issue.

We've observed a little better stands if you are waiting and it's crimped before you plant or at the same time of planting. When you make the beans come up in traffic, there's beans in here, you can't see them, but there's beans in here believe it or not. This is a post emerge crimp that was not as successful this year. This was 2020 I believe. I'm here to talk about the successes and the failures because I think we learned a lot in failures and this was a success in some aspects because we learned a lot. The bean yield was not great. So now we're crimping a little earlier, but we have the luxury of heat and moisture. So waiting until May 1st to plant, we're not losing a whole lot of yield potential on beans versus in April 15th a lot of our neighbors will be planting a little bit earlier than us, but that hasn't deterred us from waiting until ground conditions are better.

I'm not going to say excellent, but definitely better because a lot of times the first several fields that the big farmers in the area plant, they ought not be out there. But we've only got about 15, 1600 acres. We've got two planters, so we can cover some ground between me and dad and we don't have to settle for less than ideal conditions. We can wait a week, two weeks for the cover crop to be ready for the ground to be fit and for the forecast to be agreeable with heat unit accumulation and rain. So some numbers, and I'm not going to give you death by PowerPoint. If you want to talk more about these, you need to talk to Lance Gunderson. He's here, he's giving a talk right now. But Haney tests, we've been doing them every two to three years on the same fields.

I've done I think four years of Haneys now and just trying to use it to track progress of our soil health system. Just trying to quantify some of these new numbers. First thing I always look at is pH, and we've been at 6.3 pH, fairly stable for the last five or six years with no additional Lyme. We are using 32% liquid nitrogen. A lot of guys around us will use anhydrous and those same guys are using lime every time they use anhydrous pretty well and they're in a rotation, but our pHs are very stable and I attribute that to a judicious nitrogen plan for 32%. We're not wasting nitrogen, we're trying to keep track of our nitrogen input relative to our yield output. We're using the chicken litter and it's a pretty good source of calcium. It's got a lot of stuff in it, but it's a pretty good source of calcium.

So that keeps our numbers up a little. But with no lime, we've got fields approaching seven on average pH, and we haven't been liming at all and I don't think that's a problem. Phosphorus levels are pretty high due to the chicken litter. So until proven otherwise, we're still climbing up very slowly. This field, 2.9% organic matter, we've been farming... This is actually the field that I bought this year. We've had it for over 10 or 12 years now and it's pretty gently rolling, but it's got some really good organic. 2.9 is really good for Western Kentucky in row crops. A lot of times, well-managed perennial pasture will not even be 3%. This has had... It's got a lot of wheat in it's crop rotation history, but it's had cover crops for the last five years, no-till for at least six or eight, and I'm pretty proud of that 2.9% number.

I didn't know that we could get there that quickly, but it is progressing. So our soil respiration is about 77. Yep, pretty close to 77 and that's better for us. These numbers, it's hard to compare farm in western Kentucky versus a farm in northern Indiana versus somebody in North Dakota. I would recommend that you start pulling Haneys on your ground and then you could pull some on some ground that doesn't have as much soil health management and that would probably be a fairly valid comparison, but I would not go home and be like, wow, his number's only 77, that's really bad. It all depends on your context and your geography because a lot of this biology is going to be driven by heat, moisture, parent material. And this was taken I think late last week or April right before we planted corn. Moving to the numbers, 39% Russell said this morning, that's like your checking account.

39% is probably a little low. Need to work on getting that up. I don't know exactly how to do that yet, but I'm learning and we're using these tests year over year to see improvement. So I have calculations 13.5, that's kind of the summary number on this sheet. They take your [inaudible 00:25:38] and your respiration and come up with that number and 13.5 is double what a neighboring field to this was with the same management five years ago. So we're seeing some significant gains because a field just right across the fence from this was seven, just the first time I pulled it. I think 2018 would be that spring. And we aren't taking much of a nitrogen credit for this yet. I'm going to do some experimenting this year. But according to Haney, you can reduce your nitrogen by, let's see, my total available nitrogen was 51 pounds, so you can reduce your nitrogen.

So he says, I need 125 right there for a 200 bushel yield goal. We have not done that yet. I would encourage you to try it. I'm going to try it myself this year and we'll see how that goes. I hope that our system is functioning well enough that we can get away with that, and we'll see how that goes. So I'll come back next year. If you see me next year, ask me how it went. This farm has had chicken litter in the past and it might be, I don't remember the temperature when I pulled this. Late April's usually warm enough to pull a Haney in it to be valid because one of the things with this Haney is if you're in Minnesota, don't go out there next week and pull a Haney because it's next to useless because the biology is very dormant during the wintertime.

So this is completely biology driven and how they extract it. I don't remember the exact temperature, but it was like April 29th when I pulled them, so it should have been warm enough. 39 is a little bit low. There was a large cover crop there at the same timing. So I pulled that Haney and at the same time went out and pulled a cover crop analysis report, sent it to Lancet Regen Ag Labs and trying to figure out how much nutrients is our cover crop accumulating. And we had 2.6 tons of dry matter. And on April 29th, that's pretty good. This did have chicken litter right before it. The carbon to nitrogen is 22, which this field was going to corn. So 22 is pretty good. I'd like for it to have been closer to 15, probably release a little more nitrogen in season, but we're tweaking cover crop cocktails, we're tweaking timing and I think we can get that number in line with just another year or two of trial and error.

But as you can see, there's 106 pounds of nitrogen per acre in this dry matter biomass, and we've got to figure out how to release that nitrogen at a time that is most advantageous for us. So if I'm pulling this in April and we come back and plant corn a week after this, how much of that's getting into the plant before it fills that [inaudible 00:28:29]? I know visually that there is no legume biomass present when that combine rolls in the field. It's all disintegrated and there was a bunch there. It was all you could see hardly because my rates of grass are pretty low in this cocktail. This was about 30 pounds of cereal rye, three pounds of [inaudible 00:28:48], two pounds of hairy vetch, eight pounds of Austrian winter pea, and maybe three or four pounds of crimson clover. So it was a fairly heavy legume mix compared to the grasses and with the chicken litter that really kind of kicks it into an overdrive gear.

A hundred pounds... Unfortunately, I wish I had some yield numbers, but I did not put those in here because we were in a D3 drought for over 60 days right there in pollination. So these yield numbers would not impress you to say the least. I don't want to turn everybody away from this stuff because of the worst drought in a decade in our specific area, but it is still good to see these cover crop numbers. We can learn from this yet. So if you're going to beans, you would not want to see a carbon nitrogen ratio of 22. You'd want to be up well above 40, 50 even because beans don't need near the nitrogen. Well, they take care of their own nitrogen, I should say. They're better at finding it themselves with beneficial bacteria in the soil and such. Whereas with corn, we want that carbon to nitrogen down below 20 to one, 15 to one so that we can release nitrogen in the season and feed that corn just a couple of months after it's terminated.

Three months after it's terminated is the timeline. But with beans, we want that residue to last to give us the best weed control to give us the best erosion protection into the fall in the winter and even the next spring. If you can get carbon to nitrogen up to 80 to one. 60 to one, you'll have quite a bit longer in your weed control lengths and your residues on the ground will maintain much longer into the season and even into the next season. And that's with the heat and rain that I get. So the drier you get, the colder you get, I think the longer that residue will last all else being equal. If you're really far down this soil health journey and you've got livestock integrated and your biology's really kicking, then take what I said and throw it out the window because your biology is so much more active, but all things being equal as far as soil health, the more water you've got, the more heat you've got, the faster that stuff is going to cycle.

So PLFAs at the same time, I pulled a PLFA analysis and what that does is it kind of breaks down your functional groups over here so you can see how much bacteria you have in relation to your fungi in relation to your protozoa, and it breaks down types of fungi, breaks down types of bacteria, and this is when you're getting into the weeds and I don't know what that undifferentiated means. I assume it's things that don't fit neatly into a category that most of us would understand. You're going to have to talk to Lance or somebody involved in more concentrated soil biology science, but this is just a tool that we're using over time to track our fungal populations in particular because we know that the way that we've been farming the last 30 years, and the way that's normal today is you're going to have a bacterial dominated soil and it's 48% of the total biomass here.

And now what those numbers... You can't really compare those numbers if you go home and pull another sample in April or May. It's going to be dependent on your specific context. But what you can use these tools for is to help track progress over time. And this is the first sample actually that I've seen protozoa. We didn't have measurable protozoa until this year, and that's a good thing to see because protozoa bacteria is now excellent and before it's been none because there's not been any protozoa to see, and I don't know if that's year to year availability, but I'm going to keep pulling these. I'm going to pull more fields and more often next year to try to get a better handle on these readings. But overall, this is kind of a report card for your biology.

It's breaking down different types and amounts relative to each other and these very good and excellent ratings that's going to be dependent on where you are I think because for you, if you're in high dry desert in New Mexico, your numbers are going to look very different than mine or very good for me, may not be very good for you. So it's context dependent. That's why I encourage you to pull your own samples and do these year over year. It doesn't have to be large acres because these samples are kind of expensive, I think. I forget the exact dollar, but this PLFA is probably 50 to $70 a sample and the Haney will be 50 to 70 by itself, so they're fairly expensive. You're not going to go out and do this on a grid basis. You're going to do a zone in a field. If you've got small fields, you could do a whole field 20, 30 acres. It depends on your uniformity, but you definitely don't go do grid samples.

It'd be way too expensive for what you're getting back out of it, but it's just kind of a report card that we're using to check in and give some numbers and try to quantify some of the changes that we're seeing. Other ideas we've pursued. So non GMO corn, we're really moving towards non GMO corn. We're not using as many herbicides as we used to. So then why do we need to pay for the [inaudible 00:33:59]? We went and did some non GMO three years ago, I think was the first time we did a plot and saw no yield drag, and we're seeing better balance in our insect community as well. When I go out with a sweep net or just driving the four-wheeler through the field in April, the cover crop is huge. Obviously. You just look on the hood of that four wheeler, and it is covered with beneficial insects just more than I can count covered, ladybugs in particular.

If you roll out into a field in April and you're seeing tens of thousands of ladybugs, you're doing pretty good because those ladybugs lava are super predatory and they'll kill a slug, they'll kill any kind of a harmful worm. They're extremely predatory. So we're not seeing the harmful insects that we used to. We're seeing that insect community reflect our overall soil health and it's kind of balancing. We're pursuing non GMO crops because we're not seeing the harmful impacts from insects and we're not using the herbicides as much as we used to. We're trying to save some money and we're not noticing any yield decreases at all with non GMO versus GMO corn side by side in several replicated trials integrating livestock. We do have beef cattle and we've got one rented farm with cattle and row crops on the exact same property. We will graze the cattle on the cover crop seasonally.

They'll probably get turned out into the field on another month depending on how long winter lasts and the cover crop growth and the needs of the pasture as well. We played with some wide row corn. We did not do that last year until we can get a little more information. We're kind of pressing pause on it. We observed a fairly substantial yield loss and I don't know if that's our fault for setting it up incorrectly. We're still learning on that. But what we attempted here was planting some 60 inch rod cornrows and it took off after this. This is still early season. We planted a warm season forage cocktail between the wide corn rows. So what we're trying to figure out there is if we can make a competitive yield, whatever competitive might be in any given year and then have a bunch of forage growing between that corn, then we can start looking at putting up fences on all of our row crop acres and start grazing the cows and expanding the cattle herd and seizing some soil health benefits from that livestock integration.

The theory here is we plant this wide row corn. We have the summer forage cocktail growing in between them all summer long. We pull the corn off and then immediately late August, early September, we've got quite a bit of tonnage of high quality forage When our pastures are super stressed. Most July and August, our pasture gets really thin because it's hot, it gets dry. That's just what normal is for us. If we could pull the cows off the pasture and put them on this high quality forage, we'd get soil health benefits on our row crops. We'd have livestock benefits and performance. Our pasture is then getting 100% rest. It's allowed to recover with no animal impact on it, so then we're better able to go through the winter with more stockpiled forage on the ground. It would just be a win all the way around if we can figure this system out. We tried it for a couple of years, observed some pretty steep yield losses and have press paused on it until we can get more information and figure out how to do it better.

Strip till. We tried strip till, that was December of 2020 and it was dry enough to get out there somehow. So 2021 we planted three different side-by-side plots with strip till in the cover crop as you can see, and we let the cover crop go. Did everything else just like normal. We just went in and strip tilled that and if you didn't know that we'd done it, you could not find those strips come first week of May when we planted the corn in this field. We did it in three different locations, three replications, 40 feet wide in each field. I'm pretty big on on-farm research with variety trials of corn primarily, but we did a pretty good replicated study with this, observed a four bushel per acre increase doing strip till into this. There's no fertilizer in those tanks, it's just the tillage action because most of our creek bottom ground here, you can see the chicken [inaudible 00:38:23] in the distance. Most of our creek bottom ground is really high in fertility.

I'm not interested in what DAP and potash can offer me, but I was interested, we were interested and if strip-till could gain us a significant yield and it was our opinion that four bushels was not worth investing in the equipment. Taking the time to figure out how to do it. Four bushels just wasn't significant for us.

Mackane Vogel:

That's it for this episode of the No-Till Farmer Influencers and Innovators podcast. Thanks to Joel Reddick for that great presentation. And thanks to our sponsor, Source from Sound Agriculture 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.