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Stay out of
the coffee shop and 29 other tips to remember if implementing a
minimum tillage system this spring
by Susanne J.
There isn't one, simple,
perfect answer to the question of how to successfully switch from
conventional cropping practices to a ridge-till or no-till
system. But the best advice, would be to stay out of the coffee
shops, according to six veteran minimum tillage farmers talking
to 600 farmers attending the 1994 Innovative Farmers
No-Till/Ridge-Till Workshop held in Etobicoke recently.
A long term decision to
convert to a reduced tillage system shouldn't be based on the
opinions of one year experts who are resting on their laurels,
The veteran farm panel, with
at least 84 years in combined experience in minimum tillage,
consisted of: Don Lobb, a no-till farmer-researcher from central
Huron County, Doug Smith, a Thamesville area ridge-till
farmer-researcher, Bruce Shillinglaw, a Londesboro no-till
farmer, Bob Hart a minimum tillage farmer from the Woodstock
area, Jack McGregor a ridge-till farmer from Clinton, and Jack
Rigby, a minimum tillage farmer.
Other tips the farm panel
suggested to those considering a reduced tillage system were:
- "Have a positive
attitude even if things don't go exactly as
- "Seek advice,
listen and always try harder."
- "When trying a new
idea, reduce the risk and expense by starting out small.
Try it in one field instead of on the whole farm."
- "Take notes and
keep records. Write things down so an evaluation can be
done year to year."
- "Don't make major
decisions based on one year's results."
- "Be flexible. If
it rains, it's not the end of the world. Things will get
done, if not now then later."
- "Adopt a complete
conservation system instead of simply ridge-till or
no-till. The rest of the system is just as important as
- "Don't broadcast
fertilizer. It's a waste of time because you are feeding
the weeds when you should only be providing nutrients to
the crop's roots."
- "Put more crops
into the rotation to reduce disease and insect
- "Get help to
control weeds. The three-year pressure from annuals will
go down, but don't relent once they are out of sight, or
else the battle will be worse in the following
- "Use burn-down in
the first few years when making the switch to a minimum
tillage system. It will be a big mistake that will cost
in the long run if a burn-down is skipped."
- "Don't use 2,4-D
as a burn-down before planting soybeans. It will reduce
yields and isn't registered for use as a burn-down."
- "Replace worn
parts on machinery. The job isn't being done properly if
the machinery isn't working to full capacity."
- "Keep bands wide
while learning how to cultivate. Then, and only then,
narrow the bands once the practice of cultivating has
- "Don't be in a
hurry to get into a field. Wait until it is fit to plant.
If ruts are made, the field is ruined for the next
- "Control traffic.
Planting areas don't mix with driving areas. Treat the
two areas differently."
- "Hang extra
equipment on the planter to facilitate planting. In a
minimum tillage system there has to be enough weight on
the planter for it to penetrate the ground."
- "Use bias ply
tires instead of radial tires in a ridge-till system.
They have less traction, but are cheaper and will flatten
out in the valley between the ridges."
Fertilizer & soil needs
- "Inject below the
surface a minimum of 40 pounds of nitrogen in the starter
- "Band all
phosphorus and potassium with fertilizer so it is readily
available to the plant."
- "Soil test a
number of times. Instead of using a probe, take a 30 inch
slice because if you miss the band you will get an
artificially low result."
- "To be reactive to
soil climates, rely on local information instead of
information coming out of the States."
- "Scout fields
personally and regularly. A number of changes are always
taking place in ridge-till and no-till fields."
- "Do your own
on-farm trials to select seed varieties. Establish which
will work on your farm under your specific
- "Avoid cover crops
when starting into a minimum tillage system. Perfect the
rest of the system first, then add cover crops to the
- "Don't chop corn
stalks in a no-till system. It will slow the drying and
warming of the soil in the spring."
- "Do chop corn
stalks in a ridge-till system. It will leave the ridges
bare and will slow water movement in the valley between
"Manage corn residue.
Either remove it or incorporate it."
And perhaps the best piece
of advice from the farm panel: "don't be afraid to try
something different. If farmers are going to prosper in the year
2000, they have to be willing to change."
Copyright © 1994 REAP
Reprinted with permission. All rights reserved.
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