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20 Tips for No-Tilling

  1. Think through the process. Kill the sod in the fall so that planting corn is easy in the spring.
  2. Practice wielding that no-till drill with cover crops during the fall.
  3. Start by planting no-till grain in fall after soy beans
  4. For soybeans, don’t put the seed farther down than an inch so that crusting doesn’t cause problems for sprouting.
  5. Double-check the tongue on your planter when sowing seeds – it should be level.
  6. Double-check (for used AND new equipment) that all things are in alignment: the no-till coulter, the closing wheels and the double-disk opener.
  7. At season’s start, corn seeds shouldn’t be farther down than 1.5 in.
  8. Keep an eye to the sky, and the weather forecast, to see when corn should be planted. Will it be damp and cool or dry and warm?
  9. When first planting, allow plenty of time for checking on the depth of the seed, taking into account the residue. Make sure the seeds get covered correctly.
  10. To prepare for no-till forage, add lime after tilling for the final time – one or two years before the no-till forage. The field needs to be level.
  11. To ease the transition, always have both cover crops and residue. This should continue to play a role in your no-till plan.
  12. Double up cover crops and manure to make up for nitrogen loss.
  13. Remember that the price of tilling is about the same as the pricing of adding nitrogen due to surface application.
  14. During the transition, have some storage for manure (even if you haul it every day) since spreading isn’t always an option since you don’t want to rut fields.
  15. Consider having one tilled field to put your manure in case the other fields don’t allow for it due to other circumstances.
  16. Rotating corn and soy isn’t a boost for the soil. Instead, follow soy with a small grain. The southeast allows for a small grain and a second crop, corn or soy beans.
  17. Dairy farms can plant a fall grain as a cover crop that double as forage – particularly if it comes after silage corn.
  18. Collect the winter grain’s harvest, then plant a no-till summer forage, and collect its bounty. Plant oats in the fall to follow the forage. If they get in the ground on time, they will bear fruit by the fall which can then be supplanted by the no-till corn. This is a great way to get fiber into the ground to help transition into a no-till field. This also gives plenty of chances to apply manure when it gets dry.
  19. A small grain can be grown for cash which then allows legumes to be the cover crop to aid in giving nitrogen to the soil. The nitrogen is necessary for the spring corn. The small grain, legume, corn sequence is good for diversity.
  20. Go to seminars on no-till farming wherever provided. Read up on it and talk to other farmers who are doing it. 

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