Transition to Conservation Changes Soil, Lengthens Season

Adopting no-till, strip-till and cover crops in Ontario has helped suppress weeds and allowed Ken and Kevin Nixon to get their crops planted earlier.

Southwestern Ontario doesn’t see a lot of no-till. In fact, moldboard plowing is still a common practice in the area.

But despite the cold, wet climate and short growing season, brothers Ken and Kevin Nixon have found success with no-till soybeans and wheat, strip-till corn and Adzuki beans, and even cover crops in their Ilderton, Ontario, operation, just north of London.

Parking the Plow

The transition to a conservation tillage system began in 1989 when Ken graduated from the University of Guelph in Guelph, Ontario, and with their father George, wanted to give no-till a try. They purchased a coulter-style drill and tried to no-till wheat into soybean stubble. But it was a late fall and there was already frost on the ground. The Nixons couldn’t get the drill to penetrate the soil. In hindsight, they realize the drill was improperly equipped.

After that failed attempt, Ken and George visited a local farmer that had a John Deere 750 drill and decided to give that a try the next year, again by no-tilling wheat into soybean stubble.

From there they began no-tilling soybeans into cornstalks, and slowly transitioned away from plowing their wheat stubble before corn. First they chisel plowed in the fall with a Soil Saver, followed by a primary tillage pass in the spring. Then they moved to discing in the fall and skipping any form of tillage in the spring.

By the early 2000s they had heard of strip-till and were interested in giving it a try…

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Laura-allen_c

Laura Barrera

Laura Barrera is the former managing editor of No-Till Farmer and Conservation Tillage Guide magazines. Prior to joining No-Till Farmer, she served as an assistant editor for a greenhouse publication. Barrera holds a B.A. in magazine journalism from Ball State University.

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