Editor's Note: The No-Till Roundtable is a department appearing in every edition of Conservation Tillage Guide. For each issue we’ll send out an email asking for your thoughts and opinions on a no-till topic. If you have a topic you’d like to see addressed, please email email@example.com.
A: I’ve only been back on the farm for 1½ years after 20 years at the Chicago Board of Trade. We’ve been no-till since I can remember. Dad was one of the first to advocate it in our area.
Runoff still happens, but it’s not nearly as bad as the tilled fields. Tillage did seem to allow farmers to plant earlier this year. It will be a true test for our soil cover as a late blast of “catch-up” nutrient base. We did some green planting this year and Dad was not impressed with the struggle our corn had, and now we’re watching for fungus left by the cereal rye.
— Lyle Opheim, Decorah, Iowa
A: I am long term no-till. This year no-till did not shine, but no system is perfect 100% of the time.
The good: my no-tilled corn into soybean residue worked very well despite a lot of wet areas. I suffered very little erosion on my sloped fields. No-tilled corn into a moderate residue of cereal rye, peas, radish and barley also worked well.
The bad: my heavy clover residue would not die after being sprayed and the soil wouldn’t dry out. I couldn’t spray it in the fall as it rained every day. It got worked twice before corn and looks good now.
I see a fair number of late-planted, worked fields that are suffering uneven germination now that it’s turned warm and dry. My no-tilled soybeans look great. I will continue to try and mimic nature with no-till and cover crops.
— Don Ready, Port Stanley, Ont.
A: My no-tilled soybean ground with a cereal rye cover crop did very well. I had virtually no erosion with the heavy snowmelt or the heavy spring and early-summer rains. Although the rye was about 5 feet tall on June 10th when I finished planting soybeans, I encountered no problems.
I also noticed that I left no tracks or ruts while planting, unlike most of my neighbors who till their fields.
— Polly Perkins, Chatsworth, Ill.
A: I had a 100-acre field of thick barley and winter canola that was sprayed the day before planting corn. The field is terraced, slopes in three directions and has four waterways.
In spite of the 20 inches of rain I received in 25 days in May and June, I can prove by video that the water was clear leaving the field with no soil loss. The takeaway is KEEP THE SOIL COVERED.
— Rod Peters, Hillsboro, Kan.
A: This spring in Ontario was a very wet one. We didn’t start planting until June 10.
We didn’t know what to do as it was getting late. We went for a drive to some wetter fields — but they had a fall cereal rye cover crop. We drove across those fields and they were surprisingly dry. We couldn’t believe it! All we could think was it must be the rye. We’re now true believers in cereal rye cover crops.
— Jim Bennett, Elginburg, Ont.
A: With the wettest year on record for 2018, and well on our way to surpassing that record this year, we’ve witnessed considerable soil erosion in conventionally-tilled soils, yet very little loss in our no-till fields.
A 4-acre pasture had so much runoff that it literally moved 4-foot round bales, piled two deep, several feet during recent rains. Yet, our fields, in general, have had little loss, with no crop washout and no “brown rivers” flowing from our fields during our torrential spring rains.
— John Beatty, Butler, Penn.
A: We typically use all combinations of tillage practices across our acres.
While cultivating some fields, we pulled up a lot of mud balls, rather than leaving a good seedbed. So no-till was better this year. For the most part, our no-tilled fields have more even emergence than our cultivated fields, but not in every circumstance.
As for our cover-cropped fields, it was not a great year. We like to plant into standing green cover, but the wet weather made it difficult. We missed the rapid growth period, so the ground stayed wet and it was hard to close the seed slot. The soybeans into cereal rye all got planted, but more rains suppressed germination, which usually doesn’t happen.
— Mathew Pahmeier, Westphalia, Ind.
A: I had cereal rye on both my corn and soybean fields. Based on prior experience, I let the cereal rye grow during the wet spring to pull moisture out of the ground. Normally I have to wait 2-3 days after my neighbors are planting to get started, as the no-till fields dry slower. But this year we started planting corn and beans about the same time as others were starting.
I feel the growing rye dried the ground out at about the same rate as the conventionally tilled fields. My corn stands looked more even, with better color than the tilled fields.
— Dave Carter Russiaville, Ind.