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What I've Learned From No-Tilling: Strong Bonds Move No-Till Forward

Close relationships with his father, fellow farmers and local researchers helped Joel Douglass successfully switch to no-till and reclaim unproductive fields

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NAME: Joel Douglass

LOCATION: Martell, Neb.

YEARS NO-TILLING: 32

ACRES: 1,000 acres

CROPS: Corn, soybeans

You can look at my Social Security statement and identify the exact year that I implemented no-till farming.

My income was very small when I first started farming. I loved doing it, though, so I kept at it. When I switched to no-till after about 12 years on the job, my average income started growing — as did my contribution to Social Security — and has been growing ever since. No-till is the one thing that I can point to and say, ‘That is what made my farm profitable.’

Farming doesn’t exactly run in my family. My father, Paul, was a dairyman and mostly just grew alfalfa and cow feed. Nevertheless, while I was working on my agronomy degree at the University of Nebraska, he capitalized on the opportunity to purchase 400 acres across the road from our farm.

It was a bold move. At the time, we only had a two-row planter and definitely weren’t equipped to handle that many acres.

We purchased a six-row International planter and a 100-horsepower John Deere 4020 tractor. Before that, we only had a little 30-horsepower tractor for the dairy, so when we got the 100-horsepower tractor, we really thought we had the world by the tail.

For 3 years in college, I would drive the 25 miles from Lincoln to our Martell, Neb., farm to plant and manage the crops. When I graduated in…

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Martha Mintz

Contributing Editor

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