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What I've Learned from No-Tilling: Water In, Slugs Out, Inputs Down, Profits Up

Things are certainly moving in the right directions for Ben Peckman thanks to mindful no-till and cover crop management.

The poor crew from Pennsylvania State University, NRCS and ARS looking to study nutrient losses in runoff left my farm very disappointed this past fall.

They spent three days setting up nine rainfall simulators on 6-foot plots across my field. They then applied a full 3 inches of water to the plots over the course of an hour. At each of the nine plots they collected zero runoff. Zero. While it was a tough situation for them, to me it was a testament to the fact the practices I’m using — including decades of no-till and extensive cover cropping — are working well.

I’m thankful for those results. I can’t afford to have nutrients, water or what little topsoil I have to be running off my fields. With our shallow topsoil we always seem to be about 2 weeks away from a drought, so I was pleased to see my fields taking in every drop.

Being in the Chesapeake Bay watershed really puts us under the microscope, too. This failed experiment goes to show I’m, gladly, doing my part to protect the sensitive environment.

NO-TILL TAKEAWAYS

  • Protecting beneficial insects can help protect crops from predators.
  • Rolling cover crops helps facilitate planting and creates a uniform…
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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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