What I've Learned From No-Tilling: With No-Till, Growers Like What They See

While tradition, low crop prices and resistance from landlords have slowed the growth of no-till adoption, there is clearly a need to continue spreading the word.

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Name: Michael D. Plumer

Title: Extension Educator Natural Resources

Location: University of Illinois Carbondale Center, Carbondale, Ill.

Number Of Years No-Tilling: 27

Acres: Farms 150 acres; advises farmers in 30 counties; manages 20 acres of university test plots

No-Tilled Crops: Corn, Soybeans, Soft Red Winter Wheat, Alfalfa, Cover Crops (annual ryegrass, hairy vetch, crimson clover, red clover)

During the past three decades, I’ve had the opportunity to evaluate no-till agriculture in southern Illinois from three perspectives:

  • By developing a working no-till system on my own farm.
  • By evaluating dozens of field trials on 90 acres of plots with cooperating farmers in my job as an extension educator.
  • By doing long-term, replicated studies on a 20-acre university test plot.

During those same years, our farmers have steadily increased their no-till acres. Some, for various reasons, didn’t stick with no-till. But many others did, and today they are reaping the benefits of their determination. Currently, nearly three-fourths of soybean acres in this area are no-till, while corn acres are at about 30 percent.

Fast Track To No-Till Soybeans

Many of our doublecrop farmers jumped on the no-till bandwagon because it let them combine wheat and plant soybeans on the same day. And it didn’t take us long to see the payoff.

We were running a lot of 12- to 15-bushel-per-acre soybean yields in the early 1980s where we tilled wheat stubble before planting soybeans. But on no-till plots, I harvested 25 to 30 bushels per acre and farmer fields…

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Ron Ross


Mike Plumer

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