Part of the opportunity for me to recently present the “S.H. Phillips Distinguished Lecture In No-Till Agriculture” at the University of Kentucky was the chance to spend the day talking with faculty members and graduate students from around the world. Phillips was a pioneer in the early 1960s in getting no-till started on a commercial scale. And he would certainly be proud to know no-till has grown to an astounding 288 million acres today around the world.
While I was humbled to be asked to present this lecture, meeting with department members and graduate students was also a great experience. Here are a few no-till odds and ends discussed during the day.
1 While you hear many arguments about not being able to no-till continuous corn, Kentucky scientists have plots where no-till continuous corn has been grown for 40 years without any concerns.
2 When it comes to effective weed control, applying just 1pound of atrazine can do wonders in no-till fields. Too many no-tillers use no atrazine or only apply a half rate, that doesn’t control as many weeds.
3 In parts of Asia, farmers don’t leave residue on the soil surface with no-till, since they need to burn straw for cooking and heating.
4 Pop-up fertilizer is mainly used for aesthetic benefits — as a means of pleasing landlords in the spring and early summer with good-looking crops. Studies indicate pop-up fertilizer has little yield impact.
5 Argentine graduate students say 70% of the corn, soybeans and sunflowers in South America are grown in 20-inch rows.
6 Kentucky no-tillers are investing more dollars than ever in tile drainage for more effectively managing moisture for higher returns.
7 There’s little excitement about using annual ryegrass as a cover crop, since it’s been a dangerous weed in Kentucky for years.
8 While numerous no-tillers believe Bt stalks are much tougher, Kentucky agronomists believe there’s another reason. Since insects are controlled, these Bt stalks no longer contain numerous worm holes, whch provided more surface area for decomposition.
9 Growers need to make sure the most effective herbicides are used for their particular no-till conditions. Some dealers prefer to recommend herbicides other than atrazine or glyphosate since profit margins are much higher with other herbicides.
10 As shown at left, no-till has dramatically caught on in Kentucky. The only major holdouts are river-bottom soils.
11 A graduate student from Nepal quizzed me on how no-till could be used effectively in rice-paddy production. I pointed out that some rice growers in the southern U.S. are using no-till systems to cut costs and reduce soil compaction.
Plus, there were many more great no-till conversations that day. It just goes to show you what you can learn when you sit down with others who are interested in not only expanding the no-till knowledge around the US., but in all corners of the world.