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Lifelong Learning Serves Nebraska No-Tiller Well

Subsurface drip irrigation and no-till save water, time and money, while boosting corn, soybean and grain sorghum yields

Nebraska no-tiller Kurt Torell readily volunteers that he didn’t like school. After graduating from high school in 1978, he began farming with his family.

But throughout his farm career, Torell’s been committed to lifelong learning on the job to farm more productively, conserve soil and water, and increase profitability.

That commitment and a quiet but seemingly insatiable curiosity led him to adopt no-till and innovative irrigation practices during the past 10 years.

Torell and his wife, Pamela, live on T-T Farms near Gresham, about an hour northwest of Lincoln, where they crop about 3,500 acres that are 90% to 95% irrigated.

They grow yellow corn, seed corn for Pioneer Hi-Bred, soybeans and some grain sorghum.

In the past decade, Torell has been working vigorously to perfect two systems: subsurface drip irrigation, starting in 2001, and no-till, beginning in 2003.

For Torell, irrigation and no-till are essential to success. He uses 21 center pivots on 2,660 acres and subsurface drip irrigation on about 600 acres.

Hates Wasting Water

Torell grew up using gated pipe irrigation, which he explains as water flowing in fields from gates in pipes down furrows and between ridges.

On flat fields, water from gated pipe may have a hard time making it all the way to the rows ends. Typically, the third of the field nearest the gates gets too much water, the middle third may have enough and the farthest third not enough. The system takes a lot of time and wastes water.

“We were running…

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Dan Zinkland

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