The benefits of no-till and cover crops have helped a farm in Missouri open up the productivity potential of marginal land and protect fragile soils.
Committing to no-till and beginning a cover-crop program expanded the cropping possibilities at Morris Farms in Deerfield, Mo., run by Jerry Morris and his son, Michael. Morris had been what he calls an “opportunistic” no-tiller since the 1990s, seizing opportunities to skip a tillage trip when they arose.
But for the past 5 years, they’ve been committed to making no-till work on the farm’s 1,200 acres of cropped ground, including 450 acres recently released from the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP).
“There was a reason that land went into CRP,” says Jerry, whose farm is about 90 minutes south of Kansas City, Mo. “A lot of the soils are fairly thin and we just couldn’t afford to lose any more soil. I wasn’t going to farm it if I couldn’t protect the soil and make it productive. My experiences with no-till convinced me we could make that happen.”
Transitioning CRP land back to production began with a fall glyphosate application to eradicate weeds and cool-season grasses like fescue.
CRP ground with warm-season grasses poses more challenges. Not only do the Morrises have to wait longer in the spring for those grasses to be actively growing and vulnerable to glyphosate, their tendency to grow in clumps also makes it more difficult to get a good crop stand.
Start With Soybeans. Morris prefers to plant soybeans as the…