Embracing the No-Till ‘Greenhouse’ Effect

From interseeding to relay cropping to ‘engineering by inventory,’ Loran Steinlage is building a profitable, divergent no-till operation

Pictured Above: PRECISION NO-TILL. West Union, Iowa, no-tiller Loran Steinlage has seen as much as a 15-bushel yield benefit in corn by interseeding it into cover crops with planters and drills he’s built or modified. Ever in search of increased productivity, Steinlage is converting his 750-acre farm to relay or “companion” cropping to take advantage of synergies from raising several crops together

Several years ago, a trip with friends to look at greenhouses led Loran Steinlage to a Mennonite farm. It was there that he started looking at his farming practices a little differently. 

The farm owner had a brand new, ice-block construction house and shop and three brand new Massey Ferguson tractors. “And if you understand the Mennonite faith, they don’t borrow money, so he’s making some serious money on 20 acres,” he told attendees at the National No-Tillage Conference in January. “From that time on, I’ve really been trying to focus how we do things on our farm.”

And Steinlage’s farm doesn’t look like most others in his state. Soil tests, crop yields and even infrared videos from his fields are proof enough that no-tilling, cover cropping and alternative planting systems are improving his farm’s soils and profitability.

On the Fringe

Steinlage’s 750-acre farm sits in the northeast corner of Iowa in the Paleozoic plateau, on the edge of the glacial-till line. His area only sees 140 frost-free days, and he estimates his fields have at least two dozen soil types.

Steinlage used to raise continuous corn for…

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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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