Wheat

What I've Learned From No-Tilling: No-Till Shift Leads To Brighter, More Profitable Days

Embracing no-till 2 decades ago helped Carl Mattson preserve fragile soils, boost wheat yields and get an upper hand on problematic weeds.

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NAME: Carl Mattson

FARM: Mattson Farms

LOCATION: Chester, Mont.

YEARS NO-TILLING: 21

ACRES: 4,000

CROPS: Winter wheat, spring wheat and peas

No-till has definitely changed the landscape of our farm over the years, but it was a change in the farms around us in the late 1980s that gave us the push into no-till.

It all came about when neighbors started enrolling acres in the Conservation Reserve Program. That’s supposed to be a positive thing, especially for the soil, right? But for our farm, it created a massive weed problem — though probably not the weed problem most would expect.

In those initial years, the acres being transitioned to CRP around us grew gigantic kochia weeds. At the time, we were using summer fallow strips as a management strategy.

We counted on the slight crust and soil lumps that would form on the tilled fields to keep soil in place when the wind blew.

Wheat 2

As summer progressed, the weeds in the adjacent, new CRP acres would mature and dry out. Then would come the winds that we’re so accustomed to, living on the Hi-Line of Montana, just 20 miles south of the Canadian border.

The wind would dislodge the weeds and send them rolling across our fields — these massive, 4- to 5-foot-high miniature Christmas tree tumble weeds with stems larger than my thumb.

My wife, Janice, and I watched in dismay as the weeds pulverized our protective soil crust, and our fertile soil started blowing along…

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Martha Mintz

Contributing Editor

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