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By Don Bahe
As interviewed by Martha Mintz
NAME: Don Bahe
LOCATION: Stanley, Iowa
YEARS NO-TILLING: 11
CROPS: Corn, soybeans and oats
After my 70th birthday this January, my family and I calculated that 2015 is my 51st crop. It’s also a 100% no-tilled crop, a change we’ve been very happy we made in the relatively recent past.
The summer of 1999 was when I realized I needed to make a significant change in my operation. That year we got two 5-inch rains within 7 days. The impact of those downpours was sobering. I had waterways that were completely washed out and tremendous soil loss from our fields.
We’re fortunate in that we have a lot of great soil here, but that doesn’t mean we should be allowing it to be washed away. We’ve often taken our deep, good soils for granted, but even here it’s limited. I can’t go to the store and buy more soil when it’s gone, so I realized I better do something to take care of it.
Weather continued to push us toward committing to a change, with big rain events coming through almost every year taking more and more soil with them. At about the same time, the NRCS had a program where they would pay you to no-till for 3 years if you promised to continue the practice for 5. It seemed like a good strategy for saving our soils, so I signed up a 67-acre field.