Searching For No-Till’s Silver Bullet

Everyone is looking for that one key factor that will put no-till yields over the top.

Deep-banding fertilizer sounded like a great idea to Brad Mathson when he first heard about it. However, participating in a no-till club saved him from spending $30,000 to find out that it probably isn’t the best way to increase no-till yields in his operation.

The Whitehall, Wis., farmer has attended the National No-Till Conference (NNTC) nine times and had the opportunity to talk at the 2003 event about the value of sharing information with fellow no-tillers at the conference and back home.

His farm lies 40 miles east of the Mississippi River in a steep, hilly region of west-central Wisconsin. Before he started no-tilling, his fields averaged about 5 acres in size. The largest one — about 36 acres — was located on the 111-acre home farm. The rest of the farm was divided into 31 separate fields.

Today, Mathson farms only a half dozen fields ranging from 30 to 40 acres in size. He also runs a farm supply business (fertilizer, seed, chemicals), offers advice to other farmers as a crop consultant, custom no-tills 5,500 acres and custom harvests 5,000 acres.

Although he turned to no-tilling out of an interest in soil conservation, the time and labor savings have made a major difference in his business.

Will It Work?

Always open to new ideas, especially if they help him increase yields, Mathson listened to a NNTC presentation on deep-banding fertilizer 2 years ago. As soon as he got home, he floated the idea past his no-till club, a group…

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