Dave Van Doren Jr., one of the early-day no-till pioneers, passed away on May 17, 2017. I first met him during a 1973 visit to Wooster, Ohio.
After earning an undergraduate degree at the University of Illinois and graduate degrees in soil science at Michigan State University, Van Doren moved to Wooster where he took up research at what is now the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center. The Ohio State University scientist launched a career centered around no-till that eventually led to it becoming the research mainstream agricultural practice that it is today.
Along with fellow researcher Glover Triplett, the two young researchers ignored the naysayers and turned no-till into a respectable and widely accepted method of growing crops. Thanks in part to their early-day research, no-tillers have been able to lower labor and energy costs, reduce soil erosion, boost soil quality and produce higher yields.
My 1993 visit with Van Doren and Triplett led to the publication of an article for No-Till Farmer readers that represented their breakthrough data on how to make no-till work with five different soil groups. Based on soil properties and their influence on factors relating to no-till response, the researchers spelled out how no-till could most effectively work in each situation.
The Wooster fields where Van Doren conducted his long-term research represent the longest continuously maintained no-till plots in the world. Started in 1992, these no-till plots were officially named the Triplett-Van Doren No-Tillage Experimental Plots in 2003. More than 75 no-till research papers covering erosion, liming, slugs, crop rotation, earthworm activity, carbon sequestration, weed-seed bank and other topics have been published based on data from these plots.