Less Tillage, More Precision Spell Successful No-Till Transition

Tweaking their planters and drills with the right attachments and technology is helping Indiana growers Jeff and Kent Need develop their 100% no-till system.

CONSERVATION HAS been a part of the Need family farm since Jeff Need’s grandfather, Bill, raised corn, soybeans, wheat, alfalfa and cattle in central Indiana.

He would typically seed grass waterways any place there was a gulley, when coming out of wheat or alfalfa.

“He ingrained it in our heads to save soil, even before we were no-tilling,” Jeff says.

But Jeff and his uncle, Kent, are now squarely in the no-till arena as they raise 1,500 acres of corn and soybeans near Frankfort, Ind., and are several years into on-farm trials with cover crops.

Jeff says it took a year or two to get soil health turned around, but several years into the practice, things started to happen. The labor savings alone let him hold down a full-time job as a firefighter.

“The agronomist who pulls soil samples in our longer-term no-tilled fields noted that the probe goes right into the ground,” he says. “We thought we would get some stratification of nutrients and have to work in our lime, but we haven’t seen that.”

Fewer Passes.

When chisel plows arrived on the market decades ago, the Needs were able to take a step back from tillage and make just one pass in the spring before corn, leaving a little more residue on their rolling to gently rolling fields.


“With no-till we thought we’d get some stratification of nutrients and have to work in our lime, but we haven’t seen that…”

“We started seeing the benefits of keeping the…

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John dobberstein2

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.

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