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What I've Learned From No-Tilling: Thick Mulches Make No-Till Work

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Name: STEVE GROFF

Title: OWNER (WITH WIFE, CHERI) OF CEDAR MEADOW FARM

Location: HOLTWOOD, PA

Number Of Years No-Tilling: 22

Acres: 215

No-Tilled Crops: TOMATOES, SWEET CORN, PUMPKINS, BROCCOLI, FIELD CORN, ALFALFA, SOYBEANS, WHEAT, HAIRY VETCH, RYE

We&Rsquo;Ve been practicing precision agriculture for 22 years, but have never used a global positioning system (GPS).

That’s what I tell people about our 215-acre no-till operation tucked away in the rural hills of southern Lancaster County, Pa. Plus, our average field size is only 4 acres!

With fields that small, you pretty much know what’s going on without help from satellites. I’m the third generation Groff to live and farm these highly erodible fields around Holtwood, but only the first generation to use no-till.

We started to no-till back in 1980, after I got totally fed up with soil erosion. I distinctly remember having to blade soil back into deep gullies cut by rain storm runoff, before we could harvest corn.

We were losing 14 tons of topsoil per acre and the organic matter, by then down to an average 2.7 percent, was going with it. That year we started seeding corn with a no-till planter rented from our local soil conservation district and 2 years later we bought our own rig.

Like a lot of farmers, though, I wasn’t confident about making such a radical change with some fields that I had been plowing or chisel plowing every other year. Not much was happening.

But in 1986 when…

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Ron Ross

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Steve Groff

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