Meeting The Challenges Of Early No-Tilling

Better planter technology, herbicides, hybrids and varieties helped our farming operation overcome early no-till problems.

We’ve been continuously no-tilling corn, soybeans and alfalfa on our farm since the 1980ss. Looking back, I can say it wasn’t as easy to get started back then. The equipment and agronomic tools just weren’t as good as they are today.

At that time, we farmed about 200 acres, about half of it being alfalfa. Today, we’re farming over 500 acres in a 50-50 corn-soybean rotation.

My father and grandfather were very conservation minded, as some of the first contour strips and terraces in the area were installed on the farm. We were also the first in our area, by about 10 years, to use a chisel plow rather than moldboard plowing.

In the late 1970s, we moved into a combination of minimum-till and no-till, and switched to 100% no-till in the early 1980s.

Many of us got our start by no-tilling soybeans into corn stalks. The herbicide options for no-tilling soybeans were probably ahead of those available for no-tilling corn.

As for corn, we often tried no-tilling corn into sod or into soybean stubble. It was relatively easy to penetrate the soybean residue and the herbicide options for corn on soybean fields were pretty good. But when going into sod, we often needed higher rates of herbicides to get a good burndown, and this wasn’t always successful.

There are three main factors that helped us no-till more successfully.

Fixing Planter Problems

Our early corn planters didn’t have the overall heft and design to penetrate the soil uniformly to provide…

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Jim Leverich

Jim Leverich no-tills near Sparta, Wis., and serves as an onfarm research coordinator for the University of Wisconsin.

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