What I've Learned From No-Tilling: Reaching A Generation Without Tillage

While Iowa No-Tiller John Schnekloth Can Remember Wading Through Every Form of Tillage Over the Years, His 27-year-old Son, Hans, Struggles to Even Name Tillage Implements.

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NAME: John and Hans Schnekloth

FARM: Schnekloth Farms, Inc.

LOCATION: Eldridge, Iowa


ACRES: 2,600

CROPS: Corn and Soybeans

A common point of discussion in agriculture is how many generations removed most consumers are from the farm. In my household we’re starting to talk in terms of generations removed from tillage.

My 27-year-old son, Hans, has never farmed using tillage. We started no-tilling before he was born. One day he was trying to relate to me that while he made one no-till planting pass he observed another farmer make multiple passes over his field at about 15 miles per hour, beating the soil into submission. The hilarious part was he couldn’t name the tillage tool because he’s never used one. He’s never known anything but no-till.

That, of course, was not the case for me. We are six generations deep on this land and part of the house I live in was here in 1855 when my great grandfather first arrived. I’ve seen the full gamut of tillage, from my time as a youth on the farm through today.

But ignorance is bliss when it comes to tillage and that ignorance will pay for Hans. Sometimes when I pull out to no-till soybeans into a thick carpet of cornstalks, I think, ‘How can this work? I’ve got enough history of no-tilling that I know it will work, but there are still those memories of plowing and field cultivating, and how perfect the soil seemed when…

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John Dobberstein

John Dobberstein is senior editor of No-Till Farmer magazine and the e-newsletter Dryland No-TillerHe previously covered agriculture for the Tulsa World and worked for daily newspapers in Chicago, Milwaukee and St. Joseph, Mich. He graduated with a B.A. in journalism and political science from Central Michigan University.

Martha Mintz

Contributing Editor

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