Cover Crops

What I've Learned From No-Tilling: Locked Down No-Till System Protects Sloping Fields, Profits

Iowa no-tiller and American Soybean Assn. chairman Ray Gaesser is adapting his no-till system to better manage aggressive weather patterns.

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NAME: Ray Gaesser

FARM: Gaesser Farms

LOCATION: Corning, Iowa

YEARS NO-TILLING: 34

ACRES: 6,600

CROPS: Soybeans, corn and cereal rye

We thought we had no-till down pretty good, at least as far as controlling water erosion, but Mother Nature always likes to put you in your place when you get a little too confident.

In 2010, we watched our terraces fill with water and overflow and ruts wash in our field as more than 4 inches of rain fell in an hour — with even more falling throughout the night.

Gaessner Family

Gaessner Family

Unfortunately, this hasn’t been a one-time fluke. Since 2010, storms just like that one have become a yearly occurrence for us. It’s clear our weather patterns have changed, so we’ve had to regroup and beef up our soil protection strategies.

My wife, Elaine, and son, Chris, have a mixed bag of field conditions to contend with on our Iowa farm. While some of our acres are flat, a good portion of our acres in this hilly part of Iowa have significant grade.

Over the last 40 years we’ve been doing all we can to make sure we can farm those slopes without losing all our topsoil. Together with our landlords, we have installed over 1,000 terraces, grass waterways, turn areas, tiles and have been 100% no-till since 1991.

Growing up in Indiana, I helped a neighbor farm. He started testing no-till in the mid-1970s. There were clear positive agronomic reasons for no-till, such as keeping…

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Martha-mintz-new

Martha Mintz

Since 2011, Martha has authored the highly popular “What I’ve Learned About No-Till” series that has appeared in every issue of No-Till Farmer since August of 2002.


Growing up on a cattle ranch in southeastern Montana, Martha is a talented ag writer and photographer who lives with her family in Billings, Montana.

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