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NAME: Dan Gillespie (no-till farmer and state no-till specialist for NRCS)
LOCATION: Meadow Grove, Neb.
YEARS OF NO-TILLING: 21 (17 years continuous no-till)
ACRES NO-TILLED: 700 (55% center-pivot irrigated)
CROPS NO-TILLED: Corn, soybeans, cover crops (wheat, rye, oilseed radishes, CANULA, winter lentils and legumes)t
Most no-tillers can recall a time (or incident) when the “light went on” — when no-till became an obvious option. For me, that happened in 1986 during a dry spring.
Incorporating herbicide with a field cultivator dried out the soil about 4 inches deep, way below the seed zone. So we delayed planting, hoping for a replenishing rain. Meanwhile, a neighbor who ridge-tilled got his crop in and up in 5 days while we sat on our hands waiting for Mother Nature to cooperate.
We had been reading a lot about the growth of no-tillage in the central Corn Belt, but questioned how no-till would work in a drier area of northeast Nebraska with a mix of irrigated and dryland fields. My cropland is primarily Nora Crofton silty clay loam soils on 4% to 16% slopes.
We started cautiously, no-tilling 25 acres of corn into soybeans the next spring. The no-tilled corn performed about the same as the tilled field, so we boosted the no-till test to 50 acres in 1988. And, when I compared the yields with conventional till across a center-pivot-irrigated field, no-till corn shelled out 16 bushels more per acre!
I presumed the only reason was that no-till plants were…