Protecting Soils with No-Till in a Colder Northern Climate

Jerry Morical is showing no-till practices can work in a frigid region of the U.S. as he interseeds cover crops into corn and reaps the benefits of mellower soils.

For decades, Jerry Morical has made a living raising crops in the hilly, sandy loam soils near Garfield in western Minnesota. But his small farm also lies within a recreational haven, surrounded by the Chippewa River watershed and dozens of small lakes.

Five years ago, he decided it was time to do more to protect his farm’s soils and the local watershed and made a rapid conversion to no-till.

“You’ve got tile lines or you have runoff and it’s going to get into the lakes and go to the watershed. That’s probably one of the biggest reasons we went to no-till,” Jerry says. “It has virtually eliminated the washing. You hate to see soil go down the hill because it never gets back up there again.”

Successful Start

Jerry raises corn, soybeans, wheat and some alfalfa for hay on his 850-acre farm between Fargo, N.D., and Minneapolis, and he raised a small number of hogs until the mid-1990s.

The farm started out as a conventionally tilled operation with chisel plowing and field cultivating. But when Jerry’s grandson, Taylor, returned to the farm 5 years ago he suggested looking at no-till practices.

Although some farmers in their area are very skeptical of no-till, Jerry didn’t feel that way after doing some reading about the potential for reduced fuel use, improved soil health and more stable yields.

“I guess I’m always eager to try something new, so it didn’t bother me to try going into it. And it gives the neighbors something…

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John-dobberstein2

John Dobberstein

John Dobberstein is senior editor of No-Till Farmer magazine and the e-newsletter Dryland No-TillerHe previously covered agriculture for the Tulsa World and worked for daily newspapers in Chicago, Milwaukee and St. Joseph, Mich. He graduated with a B.A. in journalism and political science from Central Michigan University.

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