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No-tilling near Palmyra in southern Wisconsin on land just across the road from his childhood home, Tom Burlingham and his wife, Margaret, got a wake-up call about wind erosion during the 1981 planting season. It was the first year after they bought the farm from Tom’s parents.
While preparing to put in a hay stand, Burlingham applied manure over the winter, worked the ground in the spring and seeded 15-16 pounds of alfalfa and 2 bushels of oats per acre.
“Then the wind started to blow,” Burlingham says. “We had 30-40 mile-per-hour winds, and they blew the seeding out. Gone.”
With his light, sandy soil drifted up along the fencerow and a quarter-inch of soot lining the windowsills, Burlingham knew he needed to do something different if his farm was to succeed.
“I started wondering if it was possible to grow a crop with residue sitting on the field. Most people at the time said it couldn’t be done.”
1) Erosion control — soil stays in the field
2) Better infiltration — you can’t grow a crop with water that runs off the field
3) Weed control — less marestail and waterhemp