After spending 2 days last week visiting farms in central North Carolina, it was apparent that no-tillers have a special respect for their farmland, and what can happen if it isn’t cared for.
It isn’t just about choice, but survival. Much of the farmland east and northeast of Charlotte is classified as highly erodible (HEL), so it’s rare to see corn or soybean fields worked with tillage. Most farmers told me erosion was the main reason they chose no-till, along with economics.
Here are some tidbits that I picked up on the trip:
• Long-time no-tillers say the bright-red clay soils on their farms turned a darker shade of red as organic-matter levels increased through no-till.
• Many no-tillers are using cast-iron closing wheels on their planters and getting satisfactory results, but some are experimenting with spiked closing wheels when dealing with tough planting conditions.
• Mixes of cover crops, such as daikon radishes, cereal rye, crimson clover, Austrian winter peas, rapeseed and hairy vetch, seemed more popular with this group than just seeding a monoculture of covers.
• On some farms, no-tillers are killing cover crops in the spring by rolling and spraying them. The felled vegetation protects the entire field from summer heat and drought.
• Palmer amaranth is the most fearsome glyphosate-resistant weed in their region. But the no-tillers I talked to didn’t seem to have much trouble with it. One theory is that cereal-rye cover is having an allelopathic effect that is keeping the voracious weed at bay.
In the coming months, you’ll see plenty of articles and videos about no-tillers from this region. Stay tuned!