Responsible Farming :: No-Till Farming
Keeping Soils and Nutrients Grounded
No-till farming is the practice of planting crops each year in fields with untilled soils. In contrast to typical practice, the fields are not plowed between crops. Following harvest, the fields are either planted with a winter crop (such as wheat or barley) or cover crop to limit erosion and retain nutrients during the colder months more prone to runoff.
No-till farming techniques benefit our lands and waters by planting and harvesting crops with minimal disturbance to surface soils, significantly reducing soil erosion and nutrient runoff. Avoiding the use of plows increases the amount of water that stays in the soil and the diversity of nutrients, benefitting our crops and reducing the amount of fertilizers applied to the fields.
Another no-till benefit that has recently come to light applies to the retention of living matter that supports soil health. Higher levels of earth worms, microbes and bacteria are present in no-till soils, allowing for faster break-down of crop residues into organic matter, cycling the residues to feed the current crop.
We first started no-till techniques in 1970 when Don Cotner Sr. decided to try something different to retain the soils and nutrients on our more hilly fields. In this year we planted approximately one-third of our total farm acreage on unplowed ground. The practice worked well – the following year, we converted one hundred percent of the total acreage to no-till. The complete commitment to no-till continues to this day.