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No-Till Works Under Tough Conditions

No-till offers more options than other tillage systems with John Aeschliman’s steep slopes, limited moisture and extremely hot summer weather.

No-tilling slopes as steep as 60% that receive as little as 12 inches of annual moisture and summer-time temperatures that frequently run over 100 degrees F., John Aeschliman has been successfully no-tilling in the Palouse area of eastern Washington for more than 40 years.


A real advocate for no-tilling, the Colfax, Wash., grower no-tills 4,000 acres in the Palouse area with son Cory and one hired hand. He started no-tilling in the mid-1970s and has been 100% no-till on all his ground for the past 40 years.

Due to limited moisture that varies sharply with the area’s elevation, the Aeschlimans farm in three distinct moisture areas. These include areas that receive 12 to 14 inches of moisture, 15 to 18 inches of moisture and the home area that receives 18 to 20 inches of moisture each year. In the 18- to 20-inch area, he’s also seen years when annual moisture ranged from 9 to 22 inches.

“With the steep slopes here in the Palouse, the yearly moisture changes almost mile by mile and at times we get as much as 24 inches of moisture in the northeasstern part of our county,” he says.

Aeschliman follows a variety of rotations. A typical rotation is winter wheat, spring barley and spring wheat seeded in 7 ½-inch paired rows. The father/son team also no-tills corn, barley, peas, sunflowers and garbanzo beans. They are also experimenting with several cover crops, including radishes.

When Aeschliman’s father was growing small grains with conventional tillage in the…

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Lessiter frank

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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