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No-Till Goes Wild

No-tilling $1,000 of wildflower seed per acre helps bring color to Iowa interstates.

When you talk about driving through the Midwest one of the first things that comes to mind are the miles and miles of corn fields. The state of Iowa is hoping to change that perception.

To make your road trips less “corny,” says Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR) contractor Gary Kiernan, the state is no-tilling 230 acres of wildflowers along sections of its major interstates.

At one time Kiernan, of Winterset, Iowa, no-tilled 600 acres of corn and soybeans and had a second business as a conservation project contractor. But, as his construction business became more profitable, he left farming to oversee Kiernan Construction.

Kiernan started out as a contractor on erosion control and watershed projects 30 years ago, and now 90 percent of its business is contracted with the DNR and Iowa Department of Transportation (DOT). As the business grew, he ventured into tree planting, posting traffic signs in the off-season and now, no-tilling wildflowers.

Kiernan says that all of the DOT’s permanent seedings are no-tilled. He explains that because the wildflower seeds are so small and light, the best way to plant them is to no-till them in. Kiernan uses a no-till drill to plant 25 varieties of wildflowers, including purple prairie clover, butterfly weed and gentian.

Seeding Challenges

A Great Plains no-till drill with native grass attachments is used to seed the wildflowers. “It runs a little higher in the air and the rough grasses will fall down the tubes a little better. It has big…

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