Here are a few highlights from the Ohio No-Till Council’s “Ohio No-Till News” and events columns that appeared in Ohio’s Country Journal during 2023.

1. Spreading nutrients on the surface of no-till fields can result in half of the fertilizer being left above the roots, according to research by veteran no-tiller Marion Calmer. The Alpha, Ill., innovator says the solution is to inject fertilizer 6 to 8 inches deep in no-tilled ground. 

2.David Hula offered tips on increasing no-till yields, even if you can’t reach his record irrigated no-till corn yield of 623 bushels per acre. The Charles City, Va., no-tiller and strip-tiller plants 48,000 seeds per acre and always tests hybrids for germination. He places starter fertilizer 2 inches below the seed on both sides of the row. He also adds sugar in the row.

3.Russell Hedrick harvested a record-breaking no-till corn yield of 459 bushels per acre without irrigation in 2022. Overall, his Hickory, N. C., farm’s no-till corn averaged 268 bushels per acre. Continuous no-till with regenerative practices can increase nutrient density in crops, raising the value. 

4.Increasing organic matter makes no-tilled soil healthier and also saves money on inputs. With the help of cover crops adding nitrogen from the air and phosphorus and potassium from deep in the ground, fertilizer purchases can be cut by 50-75%. As a result of boosting organic matter, Rick Clark of  Williamsport, Ind., doesn’t buy any fertilizer. Since organic matter is almost 60% carbon, there can also be a financial benefit from selling carbon credits. 

5.Erosion costs money. Eroded (unhealthy) soil costs U.S. producers up to $500 million, each year, according to researchers at the University of Colorado.

Jeff Duling says there are 3 things he believes heavily in — no-till, strip-till and drainage. The Ottawa, Ohio, grower no-tills 600 acres of soybeans and 200 acres of wheat along with strip-tilling 500 acres of corn. The host of a late summer no-till field day in 2023, Duling owns a tile plow to install extensive drainage tile across his farm. “When we get 3 inches of rain on our flat ground, it flows somewhere,” he says. “When you drive around after a heavy rainfall and look at my fields, not many have water running off them. But when you look at nearby conventionally filled fields, the water is running off.”

6.Wind erosion can cost lives, as happened on May 1 of 2023 in Illinois when dust from tilled ground blinded drivers on I-55, wrecking about 75 vehicles and killing 8 people. 

7.“To grow crops, we need to change our thinking from an industrial mindset to an ecological mindset, from chemistry to biology. Is your soil healthy, or sterile? Life in the soil depends on active carbon.” Terry Hofecker of Dublin, Ohio, emphasized these points at one of the Ohio No-Till Council’s mid-summer field events. 

8.“With cover crops, I can use less nitrogen, have zero erosion from wind and water, increase soil biological activity and capture solar energy most months of the year.” That was a key point made by Blake Vince, of Merlin, Ontario, who spoke at the 2023 Ohio No-Till Council conference. The Canadian’s topic, “Roots Not Iron,” emphasizes that most tillage equipment (iron) operates 2-14 inches deep, while cover crop roots can grow through tillage pans that are 3 feet or deeper.

9.The lowlight of the year for Ohio no-tillers was the death of David Brandt of Carroll, Ohio. He died in May from injuries suffered when his truck wrecked on I-74 in Illinois. As veteran no-tiller Steve Groff of Holt, Pa., said, “He was bigger than any of us realized.”

A big loss to the no-till and cover crop community was the accidental death of Dave Brant in an unfortunate May 2023 truck accident. The Carroll, Ohio, farmer was known for his bib overalls and dedication to spreading the word about the many benefits of no-till and cover crops. Snapped in 2020 by Randall Reeder, the retired Ohio State University ag engineer says this is his favorite photo of Brandt.

10.For 2024, I hope you will participate in our Ohio No-Till Council events and benefit from “wise words” from our speakers and other farmers. You might be part of next year’s no-till highlights.

For More No-Till Details… Here are links to No-Till Farmer and Strip-Till Farmer articles with further details on several of the growers featured here:

Marion Calmer …Placing Soil Stratification under a Microscope

David Hula …David Hula Strip-Tills His Way to New World Record Corn Yield Record of 623 Bushels

Russell Hedrick …No-Tiller Russell Hedrick Breaks 20-Year Dryland Corn Yield Record

Rick Clark …Cover Crop Nutrients Keep Money in No-Tiller Pockets

Blake Vince…Why Roots — Not Iron — are Key to a More Prosperous No-Till Future

Randall Reeder …Predictions for the Future of No-Till Farming

Jeff Duling …A 50-Year Tradition of No-Till in Northwest Ohio

David Brandt …No-Till Community Reflects on Life & Legacy of Dave Brandt

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