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What I've Learned From No-Tilling: Experience and Observation Sells Power of No-Till and Cover Crops

Once-skeptic farmer Dale Strickler now helps other growers implement successful cover crops plans in their operations.

“Lazy man's farming,” is what my Dad called no-till. It was the 1980s, and in his mind both no-till and organic farming were dirty words. They were the two extreme ends of the farming spectrum.

We were somewhere in the middle, farming conventionally just like everyone else in southeastern Kansas. In Dad’s book the middle was the perfect place to be.

Like so many others, myself included, Dad was convinced no-till couldn’t work in our area. He was wrong, as it turns out, but he had no issues realizing that and making the switch when the time came.

My brother and I had an interesting role in moving the family farm to no-till. At Kansas State University I chuckled at my professors teaching no-till, figuring it was great in theory but that it would never work in the real world. I graduated with a degree in agronomy and started teaching at a junior college. The wage had me just scraping by, so in 1992 I got a summer job as a crop scout for a consulting firm.

 

NO-TILL TAKEAWAYS

  • The strategy is to keep the soil biology alive as long as possible. If you terminate the cover crop too early and the roots of the cash crop aren’t there, the soil biology can starve out.
  •  While cover crops can lock up nutrients, making them temporarily unavailable, cover crop root exudates actually increase the availability of nutrients in the soil in the long run.
  • You may see an increase in insect…
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Martha Mintz

Contributing Editor

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