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30 Years And Counting

While no-till is a relatively new practice for some farmers, this no-tiller has been doing it successfully for 30 years, learning valuable insights and practices along the way.

Every no-tiller has had their share of challenges. Maybe you’re dealing with a difficult landlord or your seed dealer is 3 days late in delivering your special shipment of Bt corn.

Joe Hottel certainly isn’t exempt from no-till challenges. This grower from Burkittsville, Md., dedicates all 8,500 of his acres to no-till. His crops include wheat, corn, soybeans and mixed hay. But those aren’t part of what Hottel refers to as challenges.

“We farm in three states, Maryland, Virginia and West Virginia,” he says, “and each state has their own rules and regulations they want you to abide by.”

If that’s not enough, Hottel operates 50 farms, each with its own concerns. At last count, Hottel was dealing with over 10,000 classes of soil types on these farms.

But there’s still one more area of concern.

“In the Midwest, there are no-tillers out there blessed with soil which is 3, 4 or 5 feet deep,” he says. “We’re lucky in some places if we have 6 inches of top soil. So we really have to conserve moisture.”

Practical Practices

While many of us would be baffled at where to start in a no-tilling operation like this, Hottel has it down to a science. He says hard work, hopefully smart business decisions and these tips have kept him successful for the past 30 years and hopefully will continue to do so for many years to come.

1. Cover Crops

“I love a cover crop,” he says. “It keeps the ground soft…

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