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What I've Learned From No-Tilling: Cover Crop Solution Dispels Prevent Planting Blues

Cereal rye is a ready-made soil builder when rain keeps the Roemke family out of their no-till fields.

We were uncharacteristically resistant when our agronomist, Joe Nester, first brought up the idea of using cover crops. Now we’re hooked and they’re helping bring our no-till farming system to the next level — and in the case of spring 2019, giving us a little hope in an otherwise downright depressing crop year.

Mark: Change isn’t a dirty word on our farm. It was my father’s idea to try no-tilling soybeans back in 1992 and my brother, Brian, and I started no-tilling corn in 2002. Over the years we’ve adopted precision technology and variable rate management of inputs. We may not have initially jumped on board with cover crops, but when my sons, Jon and Adam, and I did start planting them in 2015, it quickly became clear they were an excellent fit for our operation.

A very wet spring in 2015 got us our start. We had to prevent plant 1,500 acres and opted to use a cover crop. In July we seeded a mix of radish, cereal rye and rapeseed. The radishes got incredibly big, probably 3-4 inches in diameter and 2-3 feet long. It was eye opening.

Even after the first year there was less compaction in the soil. You could go out with a shovel and easily dig. The root mass was tremendous and the possibility for increasing soil organic matter (SOM) was clear.

And now another very wet spring is bringing new revelations. The exceptionally wet conditions largely kept us out of the field this…

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Martha Mintz

Since 2011, Martha has authored the highly popular “What I’ve Learned About No-Till” series that has appeared in every issue of No-Till Farmer since August of 2002.


Growing up on a cattle ranch in southeastern Montana, Martha is a talented ag writer and photographer who lives with her family in Billings, Montana.

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