What I've Learned From No-Tilling: Always Learning More From No-Till And Strip-Till

Tom Oswald continues the onfarm research that convinced him 20 years ago to avoid full-width tillage

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NAME: Tom Oswald

LOCATION: Cleghorn, IA

YEARS NO-TILLING: 26 (11 years in continuous no-till).

CROPS NO-TILLED: Corn, soybeans

It might be more correct to call this article, “What I’m Still Learning From No-Tilling.” Over nearly 30 years, my farming operation has shifted from customary fall-spring tillage, through a period of detailed research and onfarm studies and finally, 11 years ago, to adoption of continuous no-till.

I’m the fourth generation of Oswalds farming in Cherokee County in northwest Iowa since my ancestors settled here on the prairie in 1870.

This step-by-step change of shifting from tillage to continuous no-till involved a lot of trial and error. Fortunately, I have a curious mind and experiment by nature.

These instincts prompted academic study and onfarm tests to boost my confidence in no-till. Today, I have such confidence that I consider continuous no-till and strip-till our standard practices.

My long learning curve began after graduating from Iowa State University.

In 1984, my father, Stanley Oswald, and I bought a Case IH 800 Cyclo air planter with splitters. The planter had eight rows on 36-inch spacings. With the splitters, we could plant our soybeans in 18-inch rows.

We intended to no-till corn into soybean stubble to reduce erosion, but only no-tilled 25 to 30 acres in that wet spring. We learned a lot about how no-till corn will struggle during early growth stages if nitrogen is deficient and sidedressing is delayed.

A couple years later, we experimented with 18-inch, skip-row soybeans no-tilled…

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Ron Ross

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