How No-Tillers Will Tweak Field Management After the Great Flood

After brutal planting conditions in 2019, many no-tillers are looking to shorter-season hybrids and varieties, faster planting, split ‘N’ applications, cover crops and more to adjust for 2020.

Most of the time, a dynamic no-till system can take a hefty punch from Mother Nature, with roots, residue and healthier soils providing some resiliency.

But even the best no-tillers and strip-tillers faced some major challenges in spring of 2019 as snow, rain, hail and high winds slammed the Midwest and parts of the South. Nearly 20 million acres of crops — representing all tillage practices — were not planted across the country, according to USDA estimates.

Eastern South Dakota, southeastern North Dakota and southwestern Minnesota were particularly hard hit, with about $1.7 billion in flood-related crop-insurance claims being filed in those states. Parts of eastern Michigan, northwest Ohio and northern Illinois also had high payouts, as did parts of Iowa, Arkansas, Illinois and Louisiana. 

The Missouri River basin saw catastrophic flooding in March with dozens of levees breaking or being overtopped with water. It will take an estimated $1.1 billion to repair more than 1,000 miles of the river and its tributaries.


  • Get soil tests done this winter or spring so you know as much as possible about the soil characteristics of flooded fields and the nutrient status.
  • Ready your spraying and planting equipment extra early to take advantage of available planting windows.
  • Consider using shorter-season corn hybrids and soybean groups to reduce time constraints and possibly get cover crops planted earlier.

According to the USDA, U.S. farmers affected by the flooding planted only 71% of their planned soybean crop in May, and by mid-June temperatures in…

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John dobberstein2

John Dobberstein

John Dobberstein was senior editor of No-Till Farmer magazine and the e-newsletter Dryland No-TillerHe previously covered agriculture for the Tulsa World and worked for daily newspapers in Chicago, Milwaukee and St. Joseph, Mich. He graduated with a B.A. in journalism and political science from Central Michigan University.

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