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While some growers see no-till as an important soil conservation measure, others see it as a way to reduce costs and boost their bottom lines. In fact, a number of farmers are switching to no-till in 2006 due to record-high fuel prices.
“Reduced-till and no-till are very important practices on the operations I manage, not only for soil conservation, but also for profitability,” says David Thien, vice president of Thien Farm Management in Council Bluffs, Iowa. “It reduces the number of passes across the field, which can save money in the long run. It does a lot to improve soil tilth and the overall maintenance of the farm, and it helps save soil.”
One of Thien’s clients says no-till has enhanced the quality of his operation. “When we first bought this farm, it was all in the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP). We no-tilled successfully through the residual grass and have no-tilled ever since,” says John Dalton, also of Council Bluffs, Iowa. “The residue holds moisture well and we don’t have to disturb the soil. It’s just a good farming practice.”
Because no-tillers do not cultivate, they must rely solely on a high-performance herbicide program to burn down grasses and broadleaf weeds that are present at the time of application. They also need to continue to manage weeds through the crop canopy and beyond. The no-till weed spectrum includes troublesome perennials like dandelion, as well as other broadleaves including lambsquarters, velvetleaf and waterhemp.