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What I've Learned From No-Tilling: Cover Crops Offer Big Yield Boosts If Done Correrctly

No-tillers can find success by committing to, selecting and buying their seed early, planting early and controlling the cover crop early and thoroughly the following spring.

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NAME: Terry Taylor

LOCATION: Geff, Ill.

YEARS of NO-TILLING: 24

ACRES NO-TILLED: 2,480 in continuous no-till

CROPS NO-TILLED: Corn, soybeans, wheat, cover crops (annual ryegrass, crimson clover, red clover, hairy vetch, winter lentils)

It’s hard to remember when we didn’t do some type of no-tilling or reduced-tillage on our southeastern Illinois farm. We really got into high gear around the mid-1980s. Some of our first results were with corn planted into wheat stubble or a red clover cover crop. We took advantage of the PIK (Payment in Kind) federal farm program during those years to make a serious commitment to long-term no-tilling.

We were proud to have the Taylor family recognized by local and state conservation agencies 20 years ago for our efforts to save soil and water, and we have always continued to honor that legacy.

Today, we have nearly 2,500 acres in continuous no-till. In 2002, we also committed to a whole-farm cover crop program. Through trial and error, cover crops came and went during the past 25 years on the farm simply because we discovered that nearly every available cover crop has a downside that can outweigh all the pluses.

We learned that wheat or cereal rye can have alleopathic effects on corn, and the diseases that find a winter home in the cover crop “green bridge” can also beat you up pretty bad some years. Other economic factors also come into play: we used hairy vetch early on and liked it until seed…

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Ross_ron

Ron Ross

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