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Feeding the Soil Brings Dramatically Positive Results

At a soil health conference at Clemson University in October 2019, Doug Newton, a no-tiller from Clio, S.C., sat down with West Union, Iowa, no-tiller Loran Steinlage and discussed their experiences with no-tilling, cover cropping and creating fertility with plants.

Doug Newton: I went out to a research center in Milan, Tenn., that was doing no-till in 1992. There was a field that had been in continuous no-till for 14 years and right beside it was one that was conventionally tilled. They demonstrated that when it rained, the water coming off the soil in the no-till area was virtually clear. That was an eye opener.

So I planted 5 acres of no-till cotton. From that point my question was, “Can I keep this cotton clean without a plow?” My whole career prior to that had been disking, plowing — all the conventional things you do to keep a crop clean and try to make a living.

We were able to keep that cotton clean with a Red Ball sprayer. But the next year I could not bring myself to no-till. I got a strip-till rig and strip-tilled up until about 7 years ago when I met [University of South Carolina aquatic scientist] Buz Kloot. He did a soil health meeting and I just had an awakening that if we take care of the dirt, the dirt will take care of us.

So we've been no-till, but not 100%. We still have that hard pan to deal with in the coastal plains. I don't know how far down the road we will not have to subsoil, but I'm in a rotation. I’ll subsoil part of the farm this year, part of the farm next year, about a 3-year rotation, and use…

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Laura-allen_c

Laura Barrera

Laura Barrera is the former managing editor of No-Till Farmer and Conservation Tillage Guide magazines. Prior to joining No-Till Farmer, she served as an assistant editor for a greenhouse publication. Barrera holds a B.A. in magazine journalism from Ball State University.

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