After 32 Years Of No-Tilling, Truths Emerge From His Fields

Paul Schaffert has faced his no-till challenges through the decades, and he’s learned from both the ups and the downs. He offers his advice here.

Having no-tilled since 1972, Paul Schaffert has learned a few things while growing corn, wheat, soybeans, sunflowers, milo and grain sorghum on a 2,000-acre irrigated and dryland farm in Indianola, Neb. The lessons have come even harder recently, because the area, which normally receives 10 to 17 inches of rain each year, has been suffering through a drought for the past several years and irrigation is now restricted to 13 inches per year.

Based on his experience, Schaffert offers the following tips to fellow no-tillers:

Foliar Feeding

Foliar feeding can be worth the investment. Schaffert believes in the value of foliar feeding after witnessing a convincing demonstration.

He says an agronomist hoping to earn some business used a 60-foot boom to foliar feed a 120-foot strip across a neighbor’s dryland corn field. In a season that delivered less than 10 inches of rain, the treated strip yielded 61 bushels per acre, while the untreated corn yielded 36 bushels.

“That foliar feeding would have more than paid for itself,” Schaffert says. After seeing the results, he began foliar feeding of alfalfa, corn and soybeans.

Benchmark to Yields

To achieve high-yielding soybeans, Schaffert says, no-tillers should work toward high nitrogen fixation, deeper rooting, significant plant health and an early, dark green canopy that reduces heat stress during the summer.

He recommends that no-tillers also understand that yield potential is tied to its key components, including: the number of plants per acre, nodes per plant, pods per node and seeds per pod, all…

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