They Went Cold Turkey With No-Till

New no-tillers can count on making fewer trips across the field and spending less for less labor and fuel, but you’ll be devoting more time to management.

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Name: Fred Luhnow (operates Luhnow Farms with son Doug)

Location: Kewanna, Ind.

Number Of Years No-Tilling: 15

Acres: 3,500

No-Tilled Crops: Corn and Soybeans

In the Mid-1980s, we switched from moldboard plowing to a conservation farming system of chisel plowing, discing and planting. It was the recommended soil saving system of the time, but we seemed to be stuck in place.

Our yields had flattened out while input costs just kept getting higher. Much of our ground was getting to be as hard as a country road and difficult to farm. But whenever we cleared out an old fence row, that strip across the field was mellower and the crops were healthier and higher yielding. That got us to thinking about what we had been doing for the past 30 to 40 years to ruin the ground right next to it.

Over time, we studied no-till systems and talked to some of the early innovators like Ray Rawson in Michigan. The benefits of no-till seemed obvious. Although we were concerned about whether planting directly into our hard ground would work, we committed to making the change. In 1989, we sold our entire line of tillage equipment. It was a challenging time. Going into the 1989 season, we were down to one small disc to run over tile lines.


The first years of no-till we used a Great Plains 20-foot drill and a Kinze 12-row no-till planter equipped with a Rawson three-coulter system. We’ve made a number of…

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Ross ron

Ron Ross

Ron Ross pioneered the “What I’ve Learned from No-Tilling” series that has appeared in every issue of No-Till Farmer since August of 2002. He authored more than 100 of these articles.

A graduate of South Dakota State University’s agricultural journalism program, Ross spent most of his career as a writer and editor.

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