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Remembering the Early Days of No-Till Planters

An Allis-Chalmers service department veteran recalls some of the difficulties with getting the first commercially-available no-till planters to market.

By John Rosendahl, a long-retired former Allis-Chalmers, Deutz Allis and AGCO service department employee. 

I just finished reading Frank Lessiter’s book, From Maverick to Mainstream, a History of No-Till Farming. Knowing that I was involved in the beginnings of no-till back in the 1960s, my son recently got me a copy of the book. As a result, I thought you might be interested in some of the things I remember from the very early days of no-till. 

First of all, I want to thank you very much, for you No-Till Farmer folks have contributed to the success of the practice of no-till farming over the years. While I am always disappointed to see how much tillage is still going on when I travel the U.S. highways, I am sure I would see far less no-till than I do see if not for your contributions; and for that, I am very grateful for all you have done to promote no-till. 

No-Tilling in the Mid-1960s

When the new Allis-Chalmers 600 series planters were introduced to the market in 1966 and 1967, I was working in the service department at the Allis-Chalmers’ West Allis, Wis., home office. In fact, I wrote the first operators manual for these planters. Interestingly enough, the 600 series planter frames were not originally designed with no-till in mind, as I’ll explain.

In the mid-1960s, farmers were trying different row spacings for corn and soybeans, different ways of applying fertilizer — such as “pop up” applied with the seed…

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