Last week, I was finally able to hit the road to visit some farms and see what no-tillers have been up to this summer. I was also anxious to see, with my own eyes, how crops were doing during this historic drought.
As I headed to my destinations in Indiana, it was easy to see the toll the heat and lack of moisture was taking on the corn crop. From South Bend to Indianapolis to Hartford City, most of the corn was stunted and spindly looking.
One morning, irony fell in large drops from the heavens as I sat in my car to ride out a raging thunderstorm near Upland, Ind., with blinding rain and 60-mph winds.
“If I knew you were going to bring some rain I would have had you come a month ago,” one no-tiller later remarked as we headed out to a field of twin-row soybeans.
The soybean fields I saw that week generally looked much better. With any luck, some timely rains this month will help no-tillers take advantage of soybean prices that have eclipsed $16 a bushel.
Another farmer who no-tills corn, soybeans and wheat near Lebanon, Ind., told me a story about the first field he seeded with crimson clover in 2006, and how he was surprised to see beneficial insects and earthworms return. The corn planted to that field that next year saw a 30-bushel increase.
In one field of no-till soybeans with a good canopy, I put my hand on the ground and could feel how cool the soil was compared to dirt nearby that was baking in the sun.
I believe most farmers are resilient people, and while the drought may be taxing their faith and their wallets this year, I have no doubt that no-tillers are still innovating and planning for good things to come in the future.