Documenting failures and successes in a photo journal helps North Dakota no-tiller Kevin Larson evaluate and build on his no-till system.
“I’ve been taking photos and making notes for 6 years, but I wish I had done it for the last 30 years,” he says. “Keeping the journal makes sure I record, analyze and learn from the mistakes that are bound to happen.”
Like when his fertilizer tubes plugged up while planting barley.
“That error taught us that we definitely need fertilizer on our highly eroded soils,” Larson says. “There was a 48-bushel yield difference and I was able to analyze the cost and benefit of the fertilizer input. We will never doubt the value of our fertilizer program now.”
Notes like these help Larson continue to refine the no-till system he started 30 years ago, following a family tradition.
“My grandfather let his fields sit during the 1930s drought, rather than open them up to erosion like many others did,” Larson says. “My family has always believed in conservation.”
Along with his sons, Adam and Michael, Larson runs a cow-calf herd and crops some of the fragile North Dakota prairie pothole land exposed by his grandfather’s neighbors and blown into dunes. “We’re now leveling those dunes and returning them to production with no-till,” he says.
A Systems Approach. One thing Larson has learned over the years is that it takes a systems approach to be successful. By attending conferences and keeping good consultants around, he’s been able to look…