What I've Learned From No-Tilling: No-Till Isn’t The Goal – It’s Sustainability

Improving the soil resource — even within long-term no-till — is one way Hans Kok believes farmers will hit higher, sustainable yields.

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NAME: Hans Kok

LOCATION: Carmel, Ind.

YEARS Mentoring No-Tillers: 30

I've spent a good portion of my career helping producers adopt no-till practices through extension, as a Monsanto no-till specialist and, most recently, as a crop consultant.

In my experience, no-till is the way to go. It provides incredible improvements in water quality, erosion control, input efficiency and time savings. But no-till shouldn’t be the only goal for farmers. Rather, it’s an important piece in achieving high-yielding, sustainable agriculture.

That’s why no-till is just one of four requirements in the farm-education project I’m currently coordinating — the Indiana Conservation Cropping Systems Initiative (CCSI). The CCSI is a multi-agency funded initiative to help producers make the transition to a better conservation cropping system.

We want producers to do more than just no-till. We want them to have a conservation system that builds healthy and productive soil as the backbone of sustainable agriculture. For CCSI, that means:

  • Practicing continuous no-till or strip-till
  • Using cover crops
  • Taking advantage of precision-farming technologies
  • Having a nutrient and pest-management plan

A systems approach is essential with no-till. Farmers must look at their operation ecologically, not just as a chemistry set with trucks bringing in chemical fertilizers, pesticides and other inputs. By examining how crops are part of a living system, no-tillers can reduce inputs, or use them in different ways.

The following are some practices I’ve picked up over the years.

Keep An Open Mind

No-till groups are very beneficial, whether it’s meeting…

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Hans Kok

Martha Mintz

Contributing Editor

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