Forget Obstacles. No-Tilling Corn Works!

No-till doesn’t deserve the reputation its earned in some circles as the “whipping boy” of corn production.

Many people are finding no-till doesn’t push a farmer’s “hot button” like it did a few years back.

Some farmers who are making it work now take the idea for granted and some maintain the day is eventually coming when no-till will be referred to as conventional tillage. Yet other farmers facing serious problems with no-tilled corn seem to have “trashed” the word.

Both the growth in acres and enthusiasm we used to see for no-tilling corn somehow apparently disappeared in the mid-1990s. Because of less interest, enthusiasm and research in no-tilling corn, some farmers have started moving away from this exciting concept.

Since 1993, no-till corn acreage across the country has leveled off at 17 to 18 percent nationally. It’s dropped sharply in key eastern Corn Belt states such as Illinois, Indiana and Ohio. By comparison, no-till corn acres grew from 7 percent of the total corn crop in 1989 to 17 percent by 1993.

Finding Solutions

Recently, staffers at the Conservation Technology Information Center in West Lafayette, Ind., invited 25 farmers and educators to a session aimed at finding practical ways to get no-till corn acreage on the upswing again.

Ideas presented at this daylong session included the following:

1. Soil and temperature relationships in the eastern Corn Belt are critical factors affecting expansion of no-tilled corn acres.

2. A little tillage in the row area with minimal surface disturbance may be all that’s needed to make no-till corn profitable. This may be done with fall strip tilling…

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Frank Lessiter

Frank Lessiter has served as editor of No-Till Farmer since the publication was launched in November of 1972. Raised on a six-generation Michigan Centennial Farm, he has spent his entire career in agricultural journalism. Lessiter is a dairy science graduate from Michigan State University.

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