A BIT OF HISTORY. The three Wahling brothers, David, Gene and Dennis (left to right) gather in front of the first grass-backsloped terrace built in the United States. Their father, Edgar Wahling, designed it.

Milestones Mark Path To No-Till On Family Farm

Innovative terraces and early experiences with the benefits of residue-covered soil pointed to the advantages that no-tilling would deliver to the Wahling family acreage.D

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Name: Eugene Wahling

Location: Shelby, Iowa (operates family farm corporation with brothers Dennis and David)

Years Of No-Tilling: 18 (continuous no-till for 12 years)

Acres No-Tilled: 2,000

Crops No-Tilled: Corn, soybeans, barley

OUR farm in southwestern Iowa has been a leader in soil conservation since the “dirty” 1930s. My father was one of the first individuals to install field terraces on our highly erodible land to slow water runoff and save the topsoil. We’ve kept a copy of the Des Moines Sunday Register from October 1968 that describes how Dad (Edgar Wahling) and I constructed the first push-up grassed-backslope terrace in the United States.

We were honored that year with the state’s conservation farm family award under the Iowa Soil Conservation Achievement Awards program. Dad first came up with the idea when it became difficult to farm older-style terraces. His idea, also called a bench terrace, was designed to provide wide, level cropland that could be farmed with the newest 6- and 8-row equipment available at the time.

Dad also pioneered the use of a land chisel on terraces to increase rainfall infiltration. Back in 1955, following a couple of years of severe drought, he doubled corn yields where he chiseled to a depth of 16 to 20 inches. This was before the Soil Conservation Service or Iowa State University had even tested the technique.

With that historical perspective, it seemed natural that we would be among the first farmers in our area to gradually shift from…

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Ross ron

Ron Ross

Ron Ross pioneered the “What I’ve Learned from No-Tilling” series that has appeared in every issue of No-Till Farmer since August of 2002. He authored more than 100 of these articles.

A graduate of South Dakota State University’s agricultural journalism program, Ross spent most of his career as a writer and editor.

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