John Macauley planter.jpg

PLANTING RELAY. To prevent rains from soaking newly crimped cover crops and forming a wet mat, the Macauleys stay only 1 pass ahead of the planter with their 15-foot roller crimper. The crimper runs at about 8 mph, while the 30-foot planter follows at half that speed. Photo: Macauley Farms

Economic Savings, Loss Reductions Compound with No-Till

Income analysis shows operation saves $44 per acre by using no-till, cover crops & split-applied nutrients

Like many long-time no-tillers, John Macauley; his father, Jim; and his brother, Jeff, continue to tweak the technology that has kept their western New York farm an economically viable operation since parking the plow for good in 2012

Macauley Farms, a 1,350-acre operation rotating corn, two crops of soybeans and soft-red winter wheat on 1,100 acres of rolling hills above the Genesee River near Groveland, had been conventionally tilled since the 1930s. By 2005, however, John and his father realized the need to cut input costs and pare time in the field to become more efficient.

“It was becoming apparent to us that conventional farming was taking too much time, and we needed to save on equipment costs, plus we knew we had to do more to control soil erosion and improve the tilth of our fields,” John says. 

In a systematic and methodical approach, John and Jim leveraged a USDA-NRCS Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) contract to begin no-tilling wheat in 2009.

Their first step was the purchase of an Unverferth Zone-Builder with strip-till baskets and a 15-foot John Deere 750 no-till drill. They ran in-field trials with soybeans and wheat to compare yields and costs with no-till and strip-till. Since that time, the Macauleys upgraded to a John Deere 1590 no-till drill and then traded for their current 1990 Deere CCS 30-foot air drill with single-disc openers set on 7.5-inch spacing.


  • Switching from conventional tillage to no-till netted the Macauleys $44 per acre in 2018, despite…
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Dan Crummett

Dan Crummett has more than 35 years in regional and national agricultural journalism including editing state farm magazines, web-based machinery reporting and has an interest in no-till and conservation tillage. He holds B.S. and M.S. degrees from Oklahoma State Univ.

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