A month has passed since nearly 1,000 people gathered in St. Louis for the 25th annual National No-Tillage Conference, and as usual, I returned to Milwaukee with a list of story ideas, questions to explore and a wealth of information to share with our No-Till Farmer readers.

While we’ll be diving into the details of several topics and conversations shared at the conference throughout the year, here are five quick facts and tidbits I took away from the event.

  1. “If you can see your soil, you’re losing it.” Microbial ecologist Wendy Taheri explained that the impact of water is so great it causes erosion, even if you’re no-tilling it. If the soil is exposed, you’re still losing the most valuable part of it — your topsoil.
  2. “Above ground diversity begets below ground diversity.” Taheri also explained how it only takes a small increase in plant diversity to yield large increases in soil microbial diversity. Increased diversity has other benefits, too. She shared research conducted by Randy Anderson, a weed ecologist at the USDA in Brookings, S.D., that showed a cover crop rotation of warm-season, warm-season, cool-season, cool-season species, can eliminate weeds in 3 years.
  3. In the 3 decades Ray McCormick has been no-tilling on his farm in Vincennes, Ind., he saw immediate improvements from making two changes during planting: adding fertilizer and planting the corn deeper.
  4. Do you think you need lime? Don’t look at your pH, says Neal Kinsey, look at your calcium. The fertility expert from Charleston, Mo., says that soil pH is determined by calcium, magnesium and sodium. And if you have too much calcium, it will tie up all of your nutrients except phosphorus. He adds that it is possible to over-lime your fields.
  5. If you’re battling herbicide-resistant weeds, seed cereal rye to get the upper hand. “Weeds aren’t resistant to biology,” says Dwight Clary. The Fostoria, Ohio, no-tiller added that thanks to a healthy soil, which he developed through years of no-till and cover crops, he’s not only been able to reduce his herbicide use, he also stopped using commercial fertilizers more than 20 years ago and is in a complete foliar fertility program.

For more quick insights and knowledge, be on the lookout for the recap we published in the March 2017 issue, “No-Tillers Reflect Back to Move Forward at 25-Year Event.”

And if you attended the 2017 conference, leave a comment below and share what you learned from this year’s event.