WHIPPING COLD, WET SOILS. Charlie Hammer uses this home-built spring strip-till toolbar to work up an 8-inch-wide strip to quickly air out the ground before no-tilling corn a half day later.

Our Soil, Our Life

No-tilling helps this Wisconsin couple improve soil quality and preserve it for future generations.

While most Corn Belt no-tillers grow only corn and soybeans, Charlie Hammer prefers a three-way rotation. The operator of Hammer & Kavazanjian Farms with his wife Nancy Kavazanjian at Beaver Dam, Wis., prefers a no-till rotation evenly split between corn, soybeans and wheat in the farm’s 2,300-acre operation.

“Adding wheat in the no-till rotation reduces crop stress in the summer months,” he says. “Wheat definitely helps you solve the concerns of having only a two-crop no-till rotation.”

Bill Stangel has served as the farm’s crop consultant for 14 years. “Brown stem rot is a good example of what a longer rotation can do for disease control,” he says “It’s been a problem with soybeans on this farm, and adding no-tilled wheat to the rotation has played a key role in helping control this costly disease.”

But an even split between these three crops doesn’t always occur. In 2005, the farm harvested 1,040 acres of no-tilled corn, 700 acres of soybeans and only 290 acres of wheat. Some 390 acres of wheat was winter killed and this ground was no-tilled to corn last spring.

“We’ll do more corn on corn this year to get back into the proper three-crop no-till rotation,” says Hammer.

“In 1982, Charlie jumped into no-till with both feet and was looking at ways to refine everything,” says Stangel. “By 1986, new equipment became available to really make no-till work, and Charlie and Nancy soon made a real push for improving soil quality. Increasing organic matter with no-till…

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Lessiter frank

Frank Lessiter

Frank Lessiter has served as editor of No-Till Farmer since the publication was launched in November of 1972. Raised on a six-generation Michigan Centennial Farm, he has spent his entire career in agricultural journalism. Lessiter is a dairy science graduate from Michigan State University.

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