NAME: Bill and Nina Cowan
LOCATION: Hartney, Manitoba
YEARS NO-TILLING: 25
CROPS: Corn, soybeans, yellow peas, spring wheat, winter wheat, sunflowers, fall rye, canola, alfalfa and perennial ryegrass
My father, Art, truly stumbled into no-till by pure happenstance. In the early 1980s he decided he needed to get away for a day or two so he took a drive to North Dakota.
When he checked into a random hotel for the night, he noticed a sign for a zero-till conference.
He had accidentally come across one of the early meetings of the Manitoba-North Dakota Zero-Tillage Farmers Association. There were probably only 30 members at the conference, likely the early founders, and only a couple speakers.
Dad dropped in on the conference. One of the speakers got a standing ovation and Dad said it was the best speaker he’d ever heard. He came home and said we should give no-till a try.
At the time, we were farming in a fairly dry cycle. It made sense economically, from a fuel-savings standpoint, and agronomically, from a moisture-saving perspective, to give it a shot.
Our first foray into no-till, or minimum-till at that point really, was using a Bourgault air seeder with a shovel opener to direct-seed canola into winter wheat stubble. We soon switched to a narrow knife opener to disturb less soil.
By the time the real drought hit in 1988, we had seen the benefits of reduced tillage and started no-tilling exclusively on the whole farm. When…