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The land that Jeff Notstad no-tills might cause a lot of farmers to scratch their heads. It’s 480 acres of rocky, shallow loam soils that aren’t ideal for raising crops.
But the Cambridge, Wis., farmer says using no-till to manage soil erosion on his farm is paying big dividends. The last 2 years, with the help of perfect weather conditions, he’s averaged 190 bushels of corn per acre. His soil survey book says he should only be averaging 90 bushels per acre.
“You’d never dream you could get that kind of yield on this ground,” Notstad says. “But no-tilling has done that for me. I would not be able to achieve what I have achieved without no-till. That’s the bottom line.”
The Notstad farm contains limestone that’s as close as 2 to 4 inches from the surface, and 2 or 3 feet deep in the cropland areas. The farm has 60 fields ranging from 1 to 20 acres.
Since Notstad’s farm is rocky and shallow, water and soil conservation have become vital. Notstad has set up 3 miles of regularly maintained waterways in 10 different spots to battle runoff and eliminate erosion.
“It’s kind of an ugly thing when you walk out there and the soil is washed down to the rock. Soil takes a long time to develop,” he says.
He also uses 200-foot-wide buffer strips to keep materials from washing into the waterways, and some terracing on slopes greater than 10% to slow and direct the…