FIRM HOLD. Wet springs and heavy clay soils can make planting in the Red River Valley a nightmare. Cereal rye used in cover crop mixes overwinters and serves to use some of the excess spring moisture on Nick Vinje’s Hunter, N.D., fields. The roots and plant residue also help provide a firm path for seeding equipment. Images: Nick Vinje

Equipment Changes, Cover Crops Prepare Soggy Soils for No-Tilling

Skip-generation farmer not afraid to try new methods & learn from failures

I admit, the first few years that I no-till drilled my crops, it sometimes felt like I was stuck with no-till as opposed to sticking with it. That sentiment has since changed, but you’d be hard pressed to convince me to relive those first few years

It wasn’t no-till itself that was the problem. It was the wet springs in Hunter, N.D., that plagued those early seasons. I’d spend as much time digging the heavy gumbo clay soils out of the drill as I did in the tractor cab. The thick mat of small grain chaff left by my straight-cut combine header only amplified the problem. There was no soil biology in place to deal with the chaff, so it trapped moisture. The fields wouldn’t dry up, and I ended up having a lot of prevent plant acres.

To be fair, those years weren’t good for any farmer in the Red River Valley region, no matter the system they used. However, after 12 years of no-till and some key changes to my management strategies, I’d say I’m positioned to better weather wet springs. Improved soil structure, cover crops, and leaving more crop residue standing keeps me out of the mire — usually. 

Skip Generation. My farm family didn’t follow the typical generational path. My grandparents farmed in North Dakota, but my grandmother didn’t think farming was a good career for her four sons. She strongly discouraged them from staying on the farm, and none did. My father was a college…

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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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