PICTURE PROOF. No-tillers Doug Newton (left) and Loran Steinlage share photos and videos from their operations about what’s happening with their soil health and crops. Newton has seen earthworm populations increase in his sandy soils since adopting no-till and cover crops, while Steinlage has had success with interseeding and relay cropping.

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

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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