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Could No-Till, Covers Have Avoided Dust Tragedy?

While many no-tillers don’t want to come down hard on growers still using excessive tillage, some of our readers maintain the May 1 dust storm tragedy in central Illinois could have been prevented. This 70-car and truck pileup on Interstate 55 took 7 lives and sent another 37 travelers to the hospital.

Had the nearby fields been no-tilled and cover cropped, these growers say the resulting high winds, excessive tillage and unusual weather conditions that are blamed for the tragic dust storm could’ve been avoided.

Satellite Analysis. Paul Overby, a no-tiller from Wolford, N. Dak., was among the farmers criticized, in his words, for being tough on farmers using extensive tillage and its role in the Illinois tragedy.

From his no-till operation 994 miles away, the past National No-Tillage Conference presenter and award-winning no-tiller prepared an extensive analysis via satellite images and soil map data and posted it online.

Overby determined the wind that day was blowing at 30-40 miles per hour from the northwest. Satellite image history showed extensive fall tillage is done in the region.

His review of the NRCS “fragile soil index” showed these soils are considered “fragile.” This…

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Lessiter frank

Frank Lessiter

Frank Lessiter has served as editor of No-Till Farmer since the publication was launched in November of 1972. Raised on a six-generation Michigan Centennial Farm, he has spent his entire career in agricultural journalism. Lessiter is a dairy science graduate from Michigan State University.

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