Why It Pays To Boost Air And The Water-Holding Capacity In Your No-Tilled Soils

Fighting problems with surface soil compaction, this Ohio farmer was about to back away from no-tilling until he found a solution that has worked well for 15 years.

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Name: Bob Featheringill

Location: Pineview Farm, Attica, Ohio

Number Of Years No-Tilling: 25

Acres: 800, plus 300 acres no-tilled for neighbors

No-Tilled Crops: Corn, Wheat, Soybeans

Just about every no-tiller I’ve ever met would agree that at some point you start to wonder if you were really smart to move away from the “safety” of conventional systems.

When we decided to no-till in 1979, I was on the Soil and Water Conservation board in Seneca County, Ohio, where our farm is located. We had a watershed project under way at that time that taught us a lot about the undesirable effects of runoff phosphorus.

We farm yellow Blount clay soils abut 25 miles from Lake Erie, and I’m a strong believer in water conservation. Our farm has a lot of highly erodible land with 2 to 8 percent slopes. We decided 25 years ago that if we were going to do the right thing for the environment, we needed to make some changes in the way we farmed.

It would take nearly 10 years, however, before we found a no-till system that worked environmentally — and economically. The old train of thought was that if you no-till for 3 to 5 years, your problems will be solved, earthworms will become abundant and the earth will correct itself. We learned that’s not necessarily true with our clay soils.

Enter the Aerway

Our corn yields dropped for a few years after we started no-tilling the tight yellow clay soil…

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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.

Featheringill bob

Bob Featheringill

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