More than 100 years ago, long before all the Y2K hype, talk of the millennium and the existence of no-till, Charles Down’s great grandfather bought a farm. He tilled the soil, used draft horses and walked every step of the 240 acres behind his plow. The farm prospered and was systematically inherited by the next generation.
“Back in 1973, I took over the 240 acres,” says Down, a farmer from Cabery, Ill. “I told Dad I was going to switch to chisel plowing and immediately started working a midnight shift in town to pay for a new John Deere planter.”
Five years later, his brother-in-law, Leo Weber, graduated from college and returned to the farm, just as Down bought another 400 acres. Around this time, Down began looking for a means to improve yields and preserve the family farm’s precious soil.
“Shortly after we bought those 400 acres, we started to no-till,” he says. “We had an eight-row planter and started no-tilling in soybean stubble. It seemed to work pretty good, but in 1991, we had a drought. The fields stayed dry and the wind blew the seed trenches wide open.”
Determined to boost profits, Down continued his midnight job and added a Rawson zone till coulter system to the no-till planter.
“It worked great,” he says. “The crop scout came out and was impressed by my fields. When the seed count came in, we discovered it was exactly the same population that we had planted.”