ST. LOUIS, Mo. — Three growers have been honored for their efficient and effective use of applied fertilizer in their no-till systems. Named as the 12th class of Responsible Nutrient Management Practitioners, the no-tillers were honored before 900 farmers during the 28th annual National No-Tillage Conference.

At the conference, Don Villwock, Edwardsport, Ind.; Lowell King, Loma, Colo.; and Karl Dirks, Mount Joy, Pa., each shared five practices they utilize on their farms in an effort to use only necessary amounts of applied fertilizer and ensure it’s used by crops rather than lost to the environment.

Last year, all nominees for the 12th annual program answered a survey about their farming operations through an online application. Their responses were graded by a panel of fertilizer experts.

The three farmers with the highest scores were awarded the honor, along with complimentary travel to the conference and lodging from AgroLiquid and conference registration from No-Till Farmer. AgroLiquid and No-Till Farmer are co-sponsors of the Responsible Nutrient Management Practitioners Program.

Following are snapshots of fertilizer application practices utilized by these no-tillers:

Don Villwock

Karl Dirks

Lowell King

  • Don Villwock no-tills 3,500 acres of corn, popcorn and soybeans in southwest Indiana. To determine his farm’s nutrient needs, he does soil testing, with each field getting a test every third year. Soil sampling is done by type and fields are managed by zone. In addition, he does nutrient tests on the turkey litter he applies as a source of phosphorous (P). These tests inform his prescription maps for fertilizer applications. On highly-erodible soils, he broadcasts all nutrients just ahead of planting to minimize runoff. To ensure he’s not over-applying nitrogen, Villwock uses tissue tests and split applications throughout the season. He also uses irrigation soil probes to make sure he doesn’t over-apply water. Villwock has been seeding cover crops for about 25 year, and typically has about 1,000 acres in cover crops annually.
  • Karl Dirks no-tills 850 acres of corn, soybeans, wheat and barley in Lancaster County, Pa, which is part of the Chesapeake Bay watershed. Despite never using a start N-P-K fertilizer package, Dirks out-performed the county yield averages in 2019 by producing 240 bushel corn, 100 bushel wheat and 80 bushel soybeans. Typically, Dirks samples half of all farmed acres annually to direct hog manure application and uses grid sampling to determine macronutrient availability. Dirks utilizes VRT fertility to apply the right amounts and limit over-application. In addition, he does in-season tissue sampling of wheat and corn, and bands fertilizer to reduce volatilization. Dirks seeds cover crops — typically small grains or a multispecies mix — on all acres immediately after harvest to cycle nutrients and control erosion.
  • Lowell King and his brother, Mark, farm about 950 acres of alfalfa, grass, corn, wheat, rye, oats and cover crops in Colorado’s Grand Valley, where they receive only about 9 inches of rainfall annually. In order to maximize nitrogen (N) credits, the Kings pay close attention to crop rotation, planting corn into alfalfa stubble or legume cover crops as much as possible. Sidedressed N is immediately covered with residue. To minimize leaching and denitrification, the Kings use Agritain with liquid N at V6-V7 and N-Lock with dry N. Because potassium is naturally high in their western soils and they use buckwheat to cycle phosphorus, the brothers don’t do an annual application of 11-52-0, though it is common to do so in their area. Soil samples taken on a 4-year rotation help ensure their nutrient levels stay on track.

Get more details about these farmers’ nutrient management programs and farming operations here

Below is a list of past winners.

Past Winners

2019 Recipients

  • Robby Bevis, Lonoke, Ark.
  • Mike Brocksmith, Vincennes, Ind.
  • Jerry Peery, Clinton, Ky.

2018 Recipients

  • Jake Kaderly, Monticello, Wis.
  • Stuart Lawrence, Rosetown, Sask.
  • Richard Lyons, Harvel, Ill.

2017 Recipients

  • Jason Carter, Eastover, S.C.
  • Mike Taylor, Helena, Ark.
  • Mike Werling, Decatur, Ind.

2016 Recipients

  • Jerry and Nancy Ackermann, Lakefield, Minn.
  • John Kemmeren, Bainbridge, N.Y.
  • Eric Odberg, Genesee, Idaho

2015 Recipients

  • Joe Breker, Havana, N.D.
  • Jim Glover, Waterford, Pa.
  • Wye Angus Farm, Queenstown, Md.

2014 Recipients

  • B&B Partners, Gibbon, Neb.
  • Dean Glenney, Dunnville, Ontario
  • Roger Wenning, Greensburg, Ind.

2013 Recipients

  • Joel Armistead, Adairville, Ky.
  • John Niemeyer, Cortland, Neb.
  • H. Grant Troop, Oxford, Pa.

2012 Recipients

  • Bob Bottens, Cambridge, Ill.
  • Donn Branton, Le Roy, N.Y.
  • David Sutherland, Leroy, Kan.

2011 Recipients

  • Jordan Bennett, Hermiston, Ore.
  • Larry Bonnell, Pittsford, Mich.
  • Jeff Garman, Colfax, Ill.

2010 Recipients

  • Allen Dean, Bryan, Ohio
  • Jack Maloney, Brownsburg, Ind.
  • Davis, Ryan and Greg Bell of Cornerstone Partnership in Des Arc, Ark.

2009 Recipients

  • David Brandt, Carroll, Ohio
  • Mike Starkey of Brownsburg, Ind.
  • Ed and Dan Wilkinson of Getty Acres Farm in Gettysburg, Pa.