A systematic approach to no-till has Jack Maloney’s corn roots reaching deep and his yields hitting new heights.
The 20-year veteran no-tiller from Brownsburg, Ind., recently shared some valuable strategies for no-till success at the 2011 National No-Tillage Conference.
Maloney tests half of his 3,000 no-till acres each year. Samples are taken based on soil type or management zones and are geo-referenced so he can return to the same spot and monitor nutrient trends. Grid sampling doesn’t add up for him because soil fertility doesn’t happen in squares.
“Everything we do on our farm rotates around soil tests,” Maloney says. “They have to be accurate.”
Accuracy also includes making sure his lab uses the correct procedures. He prefers the original ammonium-acetate method for measurement of base saturation of soil nutrients, rather than the Mehlich method.
Soil testing, he adds, is a job best done by the no-tiller.
“Your co-op or fertilizer company won’t tell you if compaction made it difficult to take samples, and they’re likely to take one soil sample in an 80-acre field and tell you it needs 600 pounds of fertilizer,” he says. “We need to think for ourselves.”
Taking over new farms often means mending years of soil abuse. Maloney once acquired 1,500 acres that was moldboard plowed and disced for 20 years.
“The compaction was so severe that it took me years of high-horsepower and a lot of iron before I felt comfortable no-tilling it,” he recalls.