Using Nature’s Natural Tillage

The concept of tillage has taken on an entirely different form on this farm.

Snow falls, temperatures plummet and winds whip through the Loess hills of Valparaiso, Neb. It may seem hard to beleive for many no-tillers, but it’s Kurt Ohnoutka’s favorite time of the year.

While most farmers would complain about below-zero temperatures, Ohnoutka enjoys cold weather because it gives him a chance to kick back and relax while nature does his spring tillage work.

“All our tillage is accomplished through winter’s deep freezes,” he says. “The freezing and thawing cycle loosens up the soil. The colder the weather, the more action that takes place.”

Ohnoutka and his father, Gordon, have no-tilled 1,000 acres of corn and soybeans since 1990. Kurt admits that his ancestors didn’t pick the easiest land to farm, but no-till allows them to meet the challenges presented by heavy clay soils and steep slopes found in many of their fields.

In fact, no-till has done such an excellent job that the Ohnoutkas don’t feel there’s really a need to use terraces.

“We definitely needed terraces when we conventional tilled,” Kurt says. “But with no-till, we are actually able to get rid of terraces.”

Kurt admits this is totally against what the soil conservation agency recommends, but with no-till the Ohnoutkas have residue cover protecting the soil and an overabundance of earthworm holes for rainwater to seep into.

“We believe that instead of directing all the water into one area after a rain, it’s better to have the water distributed across the entire field,” Kurt explains. “Terraces are expensive, but…

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