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WHILE NO-TILLING for more than two decades, Mike Wolpert has pulled together a number of basic success strategies.
The Hurricane, W. Va., grower started farming with conventional tillage in a partnership arrangement in 1974. The operation took a major financial hit during the 1980s’ “Farm Crisis” due to poor cash flow, expansion at the wrong time, 3 years of low yields due to the weather and low commodity prices.
The partnership was eventually dissolved and Wolpert went out on his own with 1,200 acres of leased ground in 1994.
“That first year, I was working a field that had been plowed wet that spring and we were making our fifth or sixth tillage pass over it,” recalls Wolpert. “The dirt clods were somewhere between a concrete block and a softball — definitely not a good seedbed.
“My wife took a look at the field and told me I was beating the ground to death. She asked why I didn’t no-till everything, as she knew I’d no-tilled about 100 acres of corn earlier that spring that already looked great. That corn was ready to be sidedressed and I still hadn’t planted many wet fields where I was beating concrete block-sized dirt clods to death with tillage.”
That friendly “wife’s advice” conversation spurred Wolpert to further analyze why no-tillage had sometimes been working and was a bust at other times in his fields. In his research, he ran across the National No-Tillage Conference, which he attended for the first time in 1995.