While traveling to the Iowa OnFarm Network Conference last month I found two more testimonials to the benefits of conservation tillage, and the need to show some patience in the transition period.
Even though strip-till or no-till are different systems, two farmers working with those practices reported similar successes — lower fuel, labor and equipment costs, better water infiltration, more healthy soils and higher yields.
Randy Caviness, who since 1988 has no-tilled corn and soybeans on highly variable soils near Greenfield, Iowa, has seen soil-organic matter jump from 2% to 3% to well over 5% in some fields.
“That’s when the light bulb went off for me with no-till — 6 to 8 years into it, when I started to see that,” says Caviness, who farms more than 3,000 acres, some of it highly erodible. “You just grab that soil and humus and the stuff that’s in there is just phenomenal. It’s almost like cheating when you’re competing with people who don’t no-till.”
Ames, Iowa, farmer Dennis Smith has seen similar successes since he started strip-tilling 7 years ago. Soil-organic matter levels have increased from 2.5% or 3% to 4% or 5% in most fields. And ground cover from residue moderates soil temperatures in times of heat and cold, he adds.
In a world that is sometimes caught up in instant gratification, it’s great to see two farmers whose faith in reducing tillage has improved the bottom line.