Fertility An Investment, Not A Cost

Wisconsin no-tiller Bill Hurtgen is using tips gained at ‘night school’ to balance and build his soils and protect yields.

No-till, fertiltiy management and herbicide rotation have saved Downing, Wis., multi-tasker Bill Hurtgen time and money. All are nuggets the relatively new farmer picked up attending a night class at his local technical college.

Hurtgen took over his family’s beef and dairy farm 15 years ago but wanted to try his hand at farming.

“I sold seed for Pioneer for 26 years. I wanted to try growing some of it to see what I could do with yields,” Hurtgen says. “It was a passion of mine, and it made sense because I want to slow down and get rid of the dairy cows.”

He now raises 250 acres of corn, 200 acres of soybeans and 175 acres of alfalfa hay. To help with the tough learning curve, Hurtgen looked to a winter night class on cash crops. This helped Hurtgen iron out some wrinkles in his operation, and it’s where he first gained confidence in the potential of no-till.

With his acreage growing and Hurtgen trying to split time between the dairy, the beef cows and farming, no-till was an appealing, time-efficient option. Neighbors had tried it with poor results, so he was hesitant.

“The first year, I put my first no-till acres on the back 40 where no one could see them,” Hurtgen recalls. But his corn came up fine and looked as good as any of his other fields. His no-till acres are front-and-center now for all his neighbors to see.

“Last year I hit 209, 213 and…

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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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