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What I've Learned From No-Tillng: Cover crops, Water Management are This Longtime No-Tiller’s Latest Tricks

Kelly Tobin, 85, has long been dedicated to learning, and is still picking up new tricks to advance production on his farm and others he manages.


Pictured Above: RESEARCH AND TEST. In the spirit of continued learning, Kelly Tobin collaborates with Iowa State University on research projects. This 8-year study has shown no-till acres seeded to a cereal rye cover crop have increased soil organic matter from 1.9-2.1% to 3-4% during that time. He sees only an increase of 1% in that timeframe with no-till alone

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NAME: Kelly Tobin

FARM: Tobin Farms

LOCATION: New Market, Iowa

YEARS NO-TILLING: 37

ACRES: 740 + 7,000 managed

CROPS: Corn, Soybeans

IN A 1985 feature in the Des Moines Sunday Register, I was described as a veteran farmer celebrating my 54th birthday, which was a fair description. 

I’d taken the helm of my family farm at 18, gone on to purchase my own farm and had four adult children who had all graduated from college. At the time I wasn’t farming, though, I was learning. At 54 years old, I was a student seeking a degree in farm operations and agribusiness at Iowa State University. Despite my experience I had a lot yet to learn about farming and business then, and at 85 years old I’m still learning today. 

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Kelly Tobin

My path in life has been one that sits in sharp contrast to the arrow-straight paths today’s GPS-guided tractors can lay down in a field. My father passed away when I was just out of high school, leaving me to shoulder the work and responsibility of the family farm. Then, life was further interrupted when…

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Martha Mintz

Contributing Editor

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