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What I've Learned From No-Tilling: It Pays To Listen To Your Dad About No-Till

Twenty-three years after his father suggested they no-till, Wisconsin farmer Dan Stokes no-tills corn as early as possible, grows diverse rotations, custom no-tills and milks cows, too.

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NAME: Dan Stokes, Stokes Custom No-Till

LOCATION: Omro, Wis.

YEARS NO-TILLING: 20

ACRES NO-TILLED: 1,400 (700 Custom)

CROPS NO-TILLED: Corn, soybeans, oats, alfalfa, peas, wheat and native grasses

Twenty-five years ago, my father, Loren Stokes, and I milked and fed a 100-cow dairy herd and were also tilling about 300 acres of farmland. Needless to say, we were busy daylight to dark. We both decided we were working too hard.

In 1987, when it came time to buy a new planter, Dad suggested we look at machines that could be set up for no-till. They weren’t easy to find, but our search finally led us to a six-row Deutz Allis Model 385 equipped with no-till coulters.

Change is not easy. For a couple years, I still tilled the ground before planting it with the Deutz Allis. By 1991, we were expanding a custom combining business, which competed with fall plowing for our time.

So in 1991, I skipped fall tillage on a small field and planted directly into the old corn stalks the next spring. We got about 125 bushels per acre from that no-tilled field, a really good corn crop in our area at that time. But, tradition and some worry about what the neighbors might think won out, and I plowed it up in the fall.

Thinking back, I have to give Dad credit for his forward thinking. Why was I tilling, he asked, in a field that had produced as good a corn crop…

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Ron Ross

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