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Rooting Around

This Canadian no-tiller uses his farm as a “test-plot” for deciding what works and what doesn’t.

Kelly Johnson doesn’t claim to be a no-till researcher. But the customers at his fertilizer dealership may beg to differ.

That’s because this Assiniboia, Saskatchewan, no-tiller uses his farm to do his own “field tests” that carry valuable information to customers that otherwise would cost them money. And it’s proven to be a successful arrangement.

But Johnson didn’t always start out this way. In fact, he was conventionally farming until one dry year back in ‘83.

“We had a dry, dry spring,” he says. “We had to re-seed, since the wind literally blew the seed right out of the ground. So I vowed it would never happen again.”

Part of that vow for Johnson was the incorporation of no-till into his farming operation. And he’ll never go back.

“Since then, erosion has been reduced by 90 percent,” he explains. “The things I don’t like to give away are topsoil and water. I like to keep all the water that the good Lord gives me on my farm.”

Direct Seeding

To overcome the challenge of a constant wind speed of 11 mph and only 115 frost-free days a year, Johnson looked at direct seeding and found it was well worth his while.

“We direct seed everything,” he says. “The first thing we do is go into a stubble crop and use high-clearance sprayers to spray Roundup. We’ll use a half-pint as a pre-seed burndown.”

Next, Johnson uses a Concord drill to finish the job.

“We do everything in one pass,” he…

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