Converting from conventional tillage to a reduced or no-till cropping system may come with a learning curve, but in terms of corn planting, it doesn’t require new machinery. That was the advice given by dairy farmers during a Dodge County Farmers for Healthy Soil-Healthy Water summer field day.
“You don’t need a big fancy planter,” said Ryan Nell, a dairy farmer from Juneau, Wis. “But listen to what the ground is telling you; you may have to make modifications such as slowing down and watching seed depth.”
Ricky Kratz, a dairy farmer from Slinger, Wis., agreed. “There is no planter in anyone’s shed that couldn’t do no-till with some modification,” he said.
The key, according to Kratz, is down force. Down force (or down pressure) transfers weight from the planter frame to the seed openers to penetrate the soil. Too little pressure can plant seeds too shallow, while too much pressure can compact soil near the seed furrow.
Kratz also encouraged producers interested in no-till or reduced tillage to use trial and error. “It’s not one size fits all,” he said. “I take every problem I have and use it to figure out what I need to do differently.”
Nell recommended curious farmers start small at first. “Give it a try, but give it full effort,” he said. “Make a commitment to the change in that field.”
On Nell’s farm, they have been doing reduced tillage for four years. They almost quit after year one, but now, “I can’t imagine going back to conventional tillage,” he said.
“If you do no-till long term, the ground gets softer and easier to work with,” Nell added.