One of the most pressing issues no-tillers face today is how to be more responsible with their fertility practices in order to keep nutrients in their soil, available to their crops, and out of local waterways.

Three no-tillers were honored by No-Till Farmer and AgroLiquid at the 2016 National No-Tillage Conference for being able to do just that, often resulting in less fertilizer use and improved yields. Known as the Responsible Nutrient Management Practitioners, the three no-tillers shared their top five tips on improving fertility practices at the event.

Jerry Ackermann

A no-tiller and strip-tiller in southwestern Minnesota, Ackermann is close to 200-bushel corn yields with just 140 pounds of applied nitrogen (N), and has watched both corn and soybean yields increase even as he’s lowered fertilizer inputs. Here are his five tips:

  1. Rotating from alfalfa to corn allows him to go 1 year without applying N.
  2. Use a controlled-release N and phosphorus (P) enhancer to protect nutrients.
  3. Provide corn an at-plant boost with 10-34-0 starter fertilizer, zinc and a plant growth regulator.
  4. Sidedress 32% to round out N while making your post-herbicide application.
  5. Interseed cover crops after sidedressing to produce 200-bushel corn with 140 pounds of N.

John Kemmeren

A 40-year no-tiller and dairy farmer in Bainbridge, N.Y., John Kemmeren has used no-till, manure, cover crops, crop rotation and careful pH management to produce high corn and forage yields while cutting commercial fertilizer by 75%. His five tips follow:

  1. Reduce N by 50% by seeding cover crops after corn and applying manure at seeding.
  2. Soil test every 2 years and apply lime regularly in small amounts to keep pH levels constant.
  3. Keep your ground covered year-round to eliminate the runoff of nutrients.
  4. Use custom haulers to spread manure quickly, in a timely manner, over large acreage.
  5. Resist the urge to over-apply N on your least-productive acres to be more profitable.

Eric Odberg

No-tilling on steep slopes in the Palouse, Eric Odberg is using technology to keep nutrients on his Genessee, Idaho, farm and out of a local river by accurately placing fertilizer and only using what he needs. Below are the five tips he shared:

  1. No-till keeps nutrient bands intact, increases organic matter and reduces nutrient runoff.
  2. Variable-rate fertilizer application works and has value with the right fertilizer system and controller.
  3. Use less fertilizer by banding fertilizer, using starter fertilizer, timing nutrients better and liming.
  4. Use yield maps and infrared imaging to make fertilizer application maps vs. grid sampling.
  5. Lower yields are a direct result of less water-holding capacity and organic matter, so use less N in those areas.

For more information on the three Responsible Nutrient Management Practitioners, keep an eye out for the April 2016 edition of No-Till Farmer. To learn more about the program or nominate a no-tiller for 2017, visit the Responsible Nutrient Practitioners Program page on