GOING GREEN. It seemed intimidating at first, but planting corn into tall cereal rye turned out to be a great solution for slug control, managing erosion, improving water infiltration and improving soil health, says Lucas Criswell.

No-Till, Planting Green Lead to Improved Soil Health and Higher Profits

Fierce determination and a commitment to improvement paved the way to better operations and a strong bottom line for long-time no-tiller Lucas Criswell.

Though he is a 30-year no-till veteran, Lewisburg, Penn., no-tiller Lucas Criswell will admit he’s made some mistakes and is still learning.

After years of conventional farming, he and his father started no-tilling corn in the 1980s because his father got an off-farm job and they needed to save time, fuel and wear and tear on the equipment.

These are all good reasons, of course. But it wasn’t until the early 1990s that the Criswells realized no-till was helping with erosion, which was a significant concern as their area gets about 40 inches of rain per year. More changes and insights over the years have multiplied the benefits of no-till, leading the Criswells on a journey of continued improvement.

Slug Issues

The addition of a no-till drill allowed the Criswells to seed cover crops in the ground instead of broadcasting it.



  • Experiment with shorter-season varieties to give yourself more time to get cover crops established.
  • Saving money on inputs is often more effective at boosting the bottom line than achieving higher yields.
  • Question assumptions and established principles and talk about your ideas with fellow farmers. Novel solutions can develop in surprising ways.

“I started to learn about planting rye as a cover crop and using a growing plant to pull up our nutrients and minimize compaction,” Criswell told attendees at the No-Till on the Plains Winter Conference. But he was still firmly convinced of the need for added fertilizer and was happy to continue doing what had always…

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Julia gerlach web

Julia Gerlach

Julia Gerlach is the former Executive Editor of No-Till Farmer. She has a lengthy background in publishing and a longtime interest in gardening and mycology. She graduated with a B.A. in music and philosophy from Alverno College in Milwaukee, Wis.

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