‘Fencerow Farming’ Can Lead To Higher Yields, Better Soil Health

Dean Glenney’s 18 years of no-tilling attracted beneficial bacteria and increased his supply of ‘free’ fertilizer, creating record-breaking no-till corn yields in Ontario.

In Haldimand County, Ontario, about 40 miles west of Buffalo, N.Y., Dean Glenney is breaking records.

The winner of the 2010 Ontario corn yield challenge, Glenney’s irrigated fields produced their highest yield of 301 bushels per acre in 2012, while non-irrigated fields were only 7 bushels behind at 294.

The secret to this success is 18 years of non-disturbed soil and a well-managed, fencerow-farming system, says Glenney, who explained this concept earlier this year at the National No-Tillage Conference.

Soil Benefits

While the yields alone are enough to make one curious about Glenney’s recipe for success, A&L Canada Laboratories research director George Lazarovits was even more impressed once he heard Glenney’s fertility treatments.

Lazarovits told Glenney there was no way he could reach those kinds of corn yields with the fertilizer program he was using, and asked what was going on in those fields. So Lazarovits and his team investigated by conducting test plots on corn fields belonging to Glenney and his neighbor, who uses conventional tillage.

The conventional farm’s corn started off “beautiful and green,” but only produced 162 bushels compared to Glenney’s 249. Lazarovits then cultured the bacteria from the stem juice of the plants from both plots.

The results of the two were compared in petri dishes. In the stem juice from the conventional farm, there were bacteria that appeared in a polka-dot pattern in different sizes and colors. In the stem juice from Glenney’s farm, the bacteria covered the entire petri dish and were more uniform.

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Laura Barrera

Laura Barrera is the former managing editor of No-Till Farmer and Conservation Tillage Guide magazines. Prior to joining No-Till Farmer, she served as an assistant editor for a greenhouse publication. Barrera holds a B.A. in magazine journalism from Ball State University.

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