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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.
NAME: Rodman Lott
FARM NAME: Rodman Lott and Son Farms
LOCATION: Seneca Falls, N.Y.
YEARS NO-TILLING: 35
CROPS: Corn, soybeans, wheat and pumpkins
PRIMARY SOIL TYPE: Clay
ANNUAL PRECIPITATION: 40 inches
LIVESTOCK: Small beef herd
We’ve spent decades tinkering with equipment, adjusting management…