SeedRight vacuum plates with large seed cells are used for accurate bio strip-till cover crop seeding with the planter. The Lotts have tried various seeding techniques for bio strip-till, including 2 planter passes that are 30 inches wide, a strip-till rig with mounted air seeder and manipulating the delivery system on a 15-inch row width soybean planter. The aim is to seed winter kill cover crops in the row where the corn crop is seeded and covers that will overwinter between the rows. Image: Rodman Lott

Tough Soils Require Management Shift, Stubborn Persistence

Short growing seasons make cover crops & relay cropping a challenge, but they’re the right tool to tackle dense clay soils

Our heavy clay soils are among our greatest farm management challenges. They’re also vaults holding exceptionally valuable production rewards. We’ve just got to cut the right key — or more accurately, keys — to gain entrance. I say cut because I’ve yet to find a practice that’s plug and play in farming

Every farm is different. Our family knows this better than most as we’ve farmed in Pennsylvania, Florida and New York. Urban sprawl moved the farm from the Philadelphia area to Florida in 1970. The move didn’t suit, so my parents, Ralph and Shirley, headed back north in 1980 settling in Seneca, N.Y., where today we farm together with my parents and brother, Ben.

The first years in New York, Dad tried to work the ground as he had in Pennsylvania and Florida. Tillage in slightly wet conditions, which were no problem on his previous farms, formed what he described as softballs of clay that baked in the sun and wouldn’t break down all season. 

His frustrations with the heavy clay soil texture led him to adopting the Rawson zone tillage system and starting our journey to no-till, bio strip-till, cover crops, intercropping, soil biology and building functional, sustainable farming systems.

Check The Specs...

NAME: Rodman Lott

FARM NAME: Rodman Lott and Son Farms

LOCATION: Seneca Falls, N.Y.

ACRES: 3,200


CROPS: Corn, soybeans, wheat and pumpkins



LIVESTOCK: Small beef herd

We’ve spent decades tinkering with equipment, adjusting management…

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Martha mintz new

Martha Mintz

Since 2011, Martha has authored the highly popular “What I’ve Learned About No-Till” series that has appeared in every issue of No-Till Farmer since August of 2002.

Growing up on a cattle ranch in southeastern Montana, Martha is a talented ag writer and photographer who lives with her family in Billings, Montana.

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