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The essentials of no-tilling are severely tested in an area with a short growing season, just 12 inches of rain annually and the potential for frost 365 days a year. Those are the conditions that Tim Melville faces as he no-tills 3,000 acres with his sons near Enterprise, Ore., in the shadow of the Cascade Mountains.
Melville, a member of the Pacific Northwest Direct Seed Association that was a former No-Till Innovator Of The Year award-winner, has been 100 percent no-till for 15 years. His no-till efforts have withstood the challenges of nature.
“I’m not a professional researcher,” he says, “I’m a college drop-out who’s been farming for 30 years, trying to make a living. All I can tell you is what works on my farm, and you can probably apply some of these lessons back on your farm.
“In a nutshell,” he says, “It’s the whole system that counts.”
“I don’t own a cultivator, a disc or a chisel. It’s just the drill, a heavy harrow, a spray rig and a combine,” Melville notes.
His original no-till drill, still in use, is a 15-foot Yielder. “It penetrates hard soils very well and it’s very stable on steep slopes, but it has a limited width. You can spend all day getting 80 acres drilled,” he says.
Melville also owns a 30-foot Concord air drill. “It covers a lot more acres than the Yielder, and it makes it easy to change seed varieties,” he says. “We grow a lot…