John Deere 1770NT Planter

Mobilizing Farmers for Soil Health

After seeing strong yields and reduced inputs, Watertown, Wis., no-tiller Tony Peirick embraces conservation conversion — one step at a time.

Cold, wet weather hit Wisconsin early in the fall of 2018, laying waste to the cover cropping plans of many farmers, even those with many years of experience.

“It was so frustrating,” says Tony Peirick, who no-tills about 1,000 acres of corn and soybeans with his brother and their two sons on the family dairy farm. “It should be green by now. But we drilled cereal rye and winter wheat on September 19, got 3 inches of rain that night and then it got cold, so hardly anything has even come up,” he said while surveying his fields on a visit last March.

Indeed, the field at T&R Dairy near Watertown, Wis., wasn’t much to look at, with tufts of short grasses peeking out amidst the corn stubble.

As a last-ditch effort, they had broadcast cereal rye with a fertilizer spreader on about 500 acres in mid-December and much of it hadn’t yet germinated. His enthusiasm undiminished, he poked around in the soil, identifying rye seeds. “We’ll see, but I think it’ll still come up this spring,” he said.

 

No-Till Takeaways

  • Be patient. It may take a few years to see the benefits of no-till and covers, but a likely reduction in inputs, improved water infiltration, weed suppression and more will be in the wait.
  • Cereal rye is a basic but very hardy cover crop and has a good chance of germinating, even when planted very late in the season.
  • When planting green, get seeds planted at the right depth…
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Julia-gerlach-web

Julia Gerlach

Julia Gerlach is managing 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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