Research conducted on your own farm can unlock more secrets that can lead to increased no-till profitability. But taking on such a project this spring will require some last-minute planning and commitment.
With that in mind, No-Till Farmer and Alpha, Ill., no-tiller Marion Calmer are spearheading a project — “The No-Till Yardstick” — that encourages you to conduct your own onfarm research and share the results for the benefit of other no-tillers.
Calmer challenged this year’s National No-Tillage Conference (NNTC) attendees to generate more independent farmer research, maintaining it has no hidden agenda.
Calmer will pay the 2013 NNTC registration for the first five no-tillers that send valid research data next fall from new projects on their farm. No-Till Farmer will match his offer with another five free NNTC registrations for the 21st annual conference that will be held January 9 to 12 in Indianapolis.
Calmer says managing extensive plots on his farm requires only one extra day in the fall and spring, and netted an extra $50,000 in profits last year. With the 20 hours it took to establish and manage the plots, that’s a $2,500-per-hour return on investment.
“The statement I’ve heard from accountants is that you can’t improve on things that you don’t measure,” Calmer says. “I believe people who came to the NNTC this winter want to improve their operations. This is one way they can teach themselves, at their own farms, better methods that will bring better environmental conditions and better profits.
“Information generated by farmers, for farmers, is among the most valuable information you can put your hands on. And today, with the guidance systems, planting devices, scales and yield monitors we have, onfarm research is a walk in the park.”
Several NNTC attendees have already signed on to be part of this innovative No-Till Farmer project. For instance, a 2012 NNTC attendee from Ontario is mapping out a soybean population study to evaluate no-till seeding rates ranging from 75,000 to 225,000 plants per acre.
Bob Bottens of Cambridge, Ill., is geared up to do a replicated nitrogen test with varying planter-applied rates and varying sidedressed rates.
“I can overlay soil types, soil analysis, tiling and yields by soil type and by nitrogen rate,” says the winner of one of three Responsible Nutrient Management Practitioners awards at this year’s NNTC. “This would be corn on soybean ground that is well drained with pattern tiling. Nearby land yielded over 230 bushels of corn per acre last fall, so this will be a good test with high no-till yield potential.”
As you wrap up plans for the cropping season, we urge you to put out some research plots. No-Till Farmer has set up a special page on its Web site, www.No-TillFarmer.com, to provide additional onfarm research information and contacts for this project. The resulting data should be a big benefit to all no-tillers.