What I've Learned From No-Tilling: Breaking Through the No-Till Barrier with Cover Crops

Adding winter wheat, livestock and cover crops helped Paul Ackley overcome his no-till plateau, simplify his planter and build more productive soils.

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NAME: Paul Ackley

LOCATION: Bedford, Iowa


ACRES: 1,080

CROPS: Corn, soybeans, soft red winter wheat

I never was one to like tillage. It just didn’t make sense. You would go through and make a perfect seedbed to plant into and then, without fail, you couldn’t get back in the field with the planter before it would rain. Then you would have to start all over again.

BI probably first heard about no-till when I was in high school in the 1960s, but it wasn’t until many years later when my wife, Nancy, and I had our own farm that we gave no-till a try.

The 1980s are what gave us the push. Just like everyone else at the time, we were financially strapped. There wasn’t any money to hire someone to till the fields, so we were almost forced into no-till. The banker asked us where we were getting the money to buy the planter and we just said we’d steal it out of cashflow. We also got the chance to rent a neighboring farm, which doubled our crop acres, so we really had to do something different.

Our first piece of no-till equipment was a four-row John Deere 7000 planter with no-till coulters and a setup for dry starter fertilizer. We picked off the easy no-till acres first, no-tilling corn into soybean stubble. We didn’t jump right into no-tilling soybeans into corn stalks because, at the time, we didn’t have an herbicide we…

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Martha Mintz

Contributing Editor

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