Hometown Farmer: To Till or Not?

Spring in Siouxland means you'll see a whole lot of planters in the fields, but some farmers are changing the way they put their crops in the ground. All by doing a little bit less in the field before that happens.

It's called no-till farming.

It boils down to not cultivating the land before you plant.

"You do tillage, by the end of the season often a lot of that tillage fluff is already gone," said Joel DeJong, an agronomist with Iowa State University Extension.

He says when farmers no-till they can see a definite benefit in the fall.

"This past year the no-till corn was 41 bushels better than the tilled corn," said DeJong.

Those results came from a test plot near Hawarden, Iowa in 2012.

It's more than just more bushels per acre, though, no-till farming is about conservation.

"We're losing nitrogen and soil and phosphorous a lot of the times and this is a charge for farmers to really learn more about what practices are going to help them reduce that runoff," said Sarah Carlson, with Practical Farmers of America.

That was the reason for a no-till meeting March 15th, encouraging farmers to give the process a try.

The experts say no-till farming reduces water run-off when it rains and that helps stop erosion, even in a dry year.

"When it is really dry, you've probably absorbed and caught more of the water that's fallen," said DeJong. "And it can make a difference."

Not tilling can cost less, too.

There's usually less equipment wear and tear, less fuel use, even less time in the field.

But just because the process has definite benefits, it's not always easy, especially when you first start out.

Farmers may have to learn to manage things slightly differently with fertilizers and plant deep enough to break through the crust of last year's crops.

But folks like Joel DeJong say it's well worth it.

"It's very obvious to me to see that we control a whole lot more water if we have that residue," said DeJong. "In particular if we have no-till."

Not tilling now, hoping to keep that top soil around for future farmers, too.

Some farmers are even trying cover crops, planting things like winter wheat in the off season to try and battle that erosion.

Do you know any farmers trying some new techniques? If you do, Jake would love to meet them!

Please nominate them to be featured on "Proud to be a Hometown Farmer."

You can email Jake at: