Five years ago, Nick and Luke Miller returned to Miller Farms near Oconomowoc, Wis., bringing with them a passion for change that works well with the no-till tradition their father, Bob, began 16 years ago.
“Both Nick and Luke ganged up on me and said, ‘We’ve got to make some changes,’” Bob Miller recalls.
Dad welcomed the new ideas and manpower from his sons after farming 3,000 acres with a hired man.
In the past few years, Miller Farms started using cover crops, applying gypsum and growing winter wheat to improve soil tilth and yields.
They built a 36-row, 20-inch corn planter equipped with GPS, auto-steer and variable-rate seeding capability to cover 3,500 acres more quickly and efficiently.
This year, they planted LibertyLink soybeans for the first time. Next year, they’ll try soybeans with 15-inch row spacings.
Bob Miller is used to making changes. In 1976, he quit moldboard plowing and switched to a coulter-chisel plow for fall tillage. The wet fall in 1992 prevented fall tillage, but that winter, Miller heard zone-tillage pioneer Ray Rawson talk. For 1993, Miller decided to use Rawson’s coulter system for corn and soybeans with his John Deere 7200 planter.
“That’s how I got started no-tilling,” Miller says. “I went cold turkey, planting about 1,200 acres. However, the coulters and the planter plugged up constantly with cornstalks.
“My shoulders were sore and black and blue from getting down on the ground to remove the mud and the cornstalks.”
But yields in 1993 pleased him.