No-Till, Precise Fertility Bring Back the ‘Old Hills’

Randy and Dan Linville are making their sloped fields more productive by feeding the soil and seeding cereal rye to improve soil tilth and reduce erosion.

Pictured Above: SAVING SOIL. Farming 12-20% slopes, Randy Linville (right) and his nephew Dan turned to no-till practices in the early 1990s to slow down erosion. A more precise fertilizer application program has helped them reach corn yields as high as 232 bushels an acre for corn and 62 bushels for soybeans

Sitting with his nephew Dan in their barn near DeKalb, Mo., this past summer, Randy Linville recalled an event to convince them it was time to give no-till a look. 

During the late 1950s, a utility company installed a natural gas line through Dan’s father’s farm, burying it 8 feet deep. More work was done on the hillsides in the early 1990s, and while the gas line wasn’t exposed, crews only had to dig 2 feet down to reach it.

“So that means 6 feet of soil went off that hillside in a little over 30 years,” Randy says, “and you get to thinking about that and we said, ‘Man, something’s got to change.’”

Tough Sledding

The Linvilles raise 1,700 acres of corn and soybeans and occasionally soft red winter wheat, although they haven’t had wheat in their rotation for a couple of years due to low prices. Dan runs an Angus cow-calf operation with 24 head.

The challenges Dan and Randy face definitely relate to geography, as they’re no-tilling on slopes of 12-20%. Anything over 12% requires grass-backed terraces rather than conventional broad-base terraces, and 85% of their terraces overall are grass-backed. They don’t farm any riverbottom…

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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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