Why Try No-Till?

Speaker 1: Good morning and welcome to SunUp. I’m Clinton Griffiths. Today we’d like to begin a series on no till farming, a technique used to minimize soil disturbance, reduce cost and hopefully improve yields. Many of those who’ve adopted this practice say it’s tough getting started but the payoff is worth the work.

Matt Steiner is already preparing for this spring’s corn crop. His fertilizer of choice anhydrous ammonia. Yet even with all of this stubble this is the last time he’ll run a tractor over this ground until planting. The field was switched to no till farming about 10 years ago.

What led you guys to that decision, to switch over?
Speaker 2: It was a combination of factors. We were running short on labor, labor’s becoming increasingly difficult to find. We didn’t like the erosion that was taking place. We only have so much soil here and once it’s gone, it’s gone. And the economics were probably the biggest driver of our switch to no till.
Speaker 1: Those economics can really start to add up. Reducing the number of hours a tractor spends running saves a lot of fuel. Improved soil structure allows the heavy equipment to get to work more quickly after a rain, and over time yields have shot up.
Speaker 2: since we’ve switched to crop rotation and long-term no till we seemed to have uncapped a new yield plateau. In really good years we can take our yields to the next level as opposed to what we could do in conventional tillage.
Speaker 1: Let’s just say wheat. What kind of bushels are you seeing on wheat?
Speaker 2: Every farmer likes to brag about his yield so I don’t know. I will say that other producers who are doing no till rotation saw yields two years ago with sevens and eights at the front.
Speaker 1: What was the learning curve like?
Speaker 2: It was pretty steep initially. I think any producer would tell you that you don’t realize all the things that could go wrong or all the challenges you could face, even if you think you’ve researched it really well and visited with a lot of producers who’ve made the switch.
Speaker 1: Steiner says it took about three years to get the fields in the right condition and offers this advice for those considering no till. Disturb the soil as little as possible, keep all field traffic going the same direction and pay attention at harvest.
Speaker 2: The biggest thing is it all starts with the combine. You need to do a good job of chopping your straw and getting it spread uniformly across the full width of your header at harvest, and that makes everything after that much simpler and easier to deal with.

One of the things that drove our switch to no till is we had an ideal seed bed there when we harvested wheat, and then we go out with a chisel or a disc and rip it up and spend all summer trying to get a seed bed like we had at harvest.
Speaker 1: Now he’s harvesting closer to maximum potential while driving as little as possible.