Crimper

What I've Learned From No-Tilling: No-Till And Cover Crops — Just Rolling With It

A three-pronged management approach helps longtime no-tiller John C. Johnson use residue to keep nutrients cycling and yields high.

Check The Specs...

NAME: John C. Johnson

LOCATION: Stewartstown, Pa.

YEARS NO-TILLING: 37

ACRES: 1,000 C

ROPS: Corn, soybeans, wheat and alfalfa hay

Cover cropping may be a modern buzz term, but it’s a concept I first witnessed back in the late 1940s. I’m the fifth generation of my family to farm both sides of the Mason-Dixon line between Pennsylvania and Maryland, and was fortunate enough to watch both my father and grandfather work the land.

One thing I remember when I was very young was my Dad driving the tractor in corn on the third cultivator trip and my Grandpa sitting on the platform with the hand seeder, seeding annual ryegrass. It would hold back the weeds and help condition the soil. They also seeded leftover wheat in our garden with great success.

Taking The Plunge

Johnson

My first experience with no-till was in 1966. We were having a family gathering on a Sunday afternoon when someone mentioned that a guy had no-tilled some corn nearby.

It looked rough, but there was a stand of corn. I became very interested in no-till and started following the development of no-till equipment. My Dad was a real student of farming, but just couldn’t see going no-till.

I bought a farm enjoining my Dad’s in 1976 and had a custom operator no-till a little corn for me. The stand wasn’t the best, but it was there and it was comparable to conventional.

After that, I had to have my own no-till planter. In…

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Martha Mintz

Contributing Editor

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