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What I've Learned from No-Tilling: Leveling Up and Paring Down for Better No-Till Results

Integrating no-till, then cover crops, cattle, compost, autoinducers and more are ramping up performance for this Colorado dryland producer.

WE KEEP HITTING new levels with our no-till system. There’s no stopping and it keeps farming interesting — certainly more interesting than the traditional wheat-fallow rotation we used to follow. Back then I spent hour after hour in the tractor. Today I’m fermenting fish hydrolysate in a garbage can in my garage to potentially replace a synthetic nitrogen (N) topdress application. And yes, my wife Kerry Sue does think I’m crazy.

The farm we bought on the arid plains south of Seibert, Colorado, in 1987 looks nothing like our farm today. Our rotations are diverse, we grow cover crops, utilize grazing — thanks in part to gaining a son-in-law with a livestock background — and have greatly reduced commercial inputs. We’re constantly trying new things and reshaping our business. Along with changes to our production practices have come new enterprises. We are no longer slaves to the commodity market, or to commercial inputs. Instead, we now market grass-fed beef, grow our own cover crop seed, seek out specialty markets and have even recently stumbled into grain cleaning for export markets.

It all goes back to that first big leap into no-till.

Diving In

There was no warmup to no-till, no trying it on a few acres. We jumped right into full continuous crop no-till in 1997. I’d attended some no-till events over the years. Then, on one fateful trip I stopped in at the Dakota Lakes Research Farm and met Dwayne Beck. It was a well-timed encounter.

NO-TILL TAKEAWAYS

  • Grazing…
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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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