Frank Comments: More Drought, More No-Till

WITH EXTENSIVE concentrations of livestock production in the Northeast area of the U.S., this hasn’t been an area that’s seen a significant shift to no-till. But with area farmers facing a serious lack of rainfall and new nutrient management rules that practically mandate no-till, there’s more interest now than ever before.

Cover Crops First

University of Massachusetts agronomist Masoud Hashemi says surveys indicate only 17% of Northeast dairy and livestock operations are making effective use of cover crops.

“On-time planting of a winter grain cover crop requires some changes in management practices,” says Hashemi. “Among the changes is growing shorter-season corn hybrids and/or transitioning to no-till, which allows planting corn without a yield penalty.”

While a few dairy farmers have switched to shorter-season corn due to the shorter growing season, there’s been more no-till interest the last 2 years due to drought conditions. For instance, parts of Massachusetts have only received 30% of normal rainfall this year.

In evaluating cover crops over the years, Hashemi says his main goal was to focus on getting maximum nutrient recovery from the fall application of manure. But in evaluating the data, he noticed no-tilled corn generally performed better than with tillage.

He’s found the easiest and most successful way for Northeast livestock producers to start no-tilling is to kill a hay crop in the fall with herbicides and then no-till corn into the sod the following spring.

Seeding cover crops into silage fields in the Northeast needs to take place before Sept. 15…

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Frank Lessiter

Frank Lessiter has served as editor of No-Till Farmer since the publication was launched in November of 1972. Raised on a six-generation Michigan Centennial Farm, he has spent his entire career in agricultural journalism. Lessiter is a dairy science graduate from Michigan State University.

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