It seems clear that No-Till Farmer readers are quickly moving away from the old recommendation that you need to apply 1.2 pounds of nitrogen for every expected bushel of corn.

According to our 2011 No-Till Practices Survey answered by 502 readers this past spring, 13.4% are applying less than 0.8 pounds of nitrogen for every expected bushel of corn. Nearly 59% apply less than 1 pound of nitrogen per their corn yield goal.

Cover crops may be a critical part of that equation. Some 56% of respondents said they raised cover crops in 2009-10. Of those respondents, two-thirds felt they would get some nitrogen benefit by up to 40 pounds per acre, while another 29% expected a benefit of 40 to 80 pounds of nitrogen.

No-tiller and philanthropist Howard Buffett has thrown his weight behind an inaugural cover-crop conference in Decatur next month, an indication that this rotational tool that No-Till Farmer has championed for 40 years continues to gain momentum.

 Who says you can't turn back the clock? Before synthetic fertilizers, a clover cover crop was a staple of farms as a way to produce nitrogen for grain crops. And while we need applied fertilizers, no-tillers are leading the way to developing cost-effective, soil-building alternatives.