Making No-Till, Cover Crops Work in the ‘Dust Bowl’

Nick Vos is pushing to overcome moisture challenges on his farm in southwestern Kansas by no-tilling and using covers to recycle available nutrients and keep his sandy soils protected.

Pictured Above: PLANTING CORN DEEP. May-planted no-till corn emerges through a layer of cover crop residue on Nick Vos’ farm near Hugoton, Kan. Vos no-tills corn 2-3 inches deep to promote maximum root structure. This technique allows plants to develop five sets of nodal roots to better withstand stress

When Nick Vos came from South Africa to the U.S. to farm, the transition wasn’t an easy one. 

He grew up on a vegetable farm in the Limpopo Province of South Africa, North of Johannesburg. Their family lost everything in 2000 during a massive flood following 23 inches of rain falling in just over one week. 

Every bridge along a 168-mile-long river in his area were taken out and the Vos family’s crops were without power for over 2 months. What didn’t flood, dried out and died.

Vos had the opportunity to move to the U.S. as a green card holder in 2006 and began farming with another enterprise. Vos’ family became U.S. citizens 5 years later.

In 2014, Vos started to farm on his own. no-tilling dryland and irrigated crops and raising sheep near Hugoton in southwestern Kansas. That same year he also started Prairie Seeds, selling seed corn and cover crop seed.

Smarter Seeding, Fertility

Vos farms about 1,000 acres, 300 irrigated and 700 dryland, no-tilling all corn, soybeans, milo and wheat where possible, as well as oats for hay. His wife Johanna started incorporating Dorper sheep into the operation 3 years ago. 

After starting out with strip-till in…

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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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