Converting Land to No-Till

When it comes to acquiring new land, the Rulon family at Arcadia, Ind., follows an intensive 3-year plan to make the switch to no-till. Roy, Ken and Rodney have been 100% no-till for nearly 25 years and rely on cover crops to improve soil fertility, efficiently manage soil nutrients, reduce erosion and increase organic matter. 

At the recent Iowa Cover Crops Conference, Ken Rulon said the farm’s 3-year program for no-tilling new ground is expensive, but one that quickly capitalizes on the many benefits of no-tilling. 

“We want to eliminate tillage and improve the ground as quickly as possible,” Rulon says. “Right away, we want to get the ground pattern tiled and eliminate any compaction and fertility concerns.”

Year One

To get started, the Rulons take eight soil-sample probes from each 1-acre grid to get a head start on meeting fertility needs. They also create a topographic map for each field and develop a tiling plan to effectively manage surface water. Where needed, waterways are installed using cost-share funds from the NRCS.

Based on soil test results, a portion of the prescribed lime and gypsum is applied after harvest and they rip the ground with an Unverferth Zone-Builder subsoiler.

Phosphorus (P) and potassium (K) are applied in early spring, along with 2 tons per acre of chicken manure. “Many of these newly managed fields have depleted soils, so the chicken manure helps improve the biological activity,” Rulon says. The field is then no-tilled to an early maturing corn, along with…

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Lessiter frank

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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