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Transitions of no-till


By Randall Reeder, Ohio State University Extension Agricultural Engineer (retired)

When is no-till not really no-till? If a field has not been tilled the previous two seasons, is the third year truly no-till?

Jerry Grigar, State Agronomist for NRCS in Michigan, has pondered those questions, especially related to no-till research. If a new faculty member plans to do a 3-year no-till research project, can she start with ground that’s been tilled for years? Would the results in the third year be different if it was on long-term continuous no-till ground?

No-till is not really no-till until the soil achieves a physical, biological and chemical balance after several years of continuous no-till. Cover crops, manure, and crop rotations can reduce the time to as little as 3 years, but it often requires 6 to 9 years.

Grigar, who is also a successful no-till farmer, believes any no-till research begun on tilled ground should be called transitional no-till. We need more research on transitional no-till because farmers wanting (or needing) to switch to continuous no-till need answers on steps to do it quickly and economically.

These and many other topics will be discussed on Aug. 29 at the Ohio No-Till (Summer) Field Day being held at

Wooster. This will be the first time the Ohio No-Till Council has held an event in northeast Ohio. Of course, the historic no-till plots are a key attraction.

Experiments on the effects of tillage and rotation on crop yields were started at the OARDC site at Wooster in 1962 (and in 1963 near Hoytville) by Drs. David M. Van Doren and Glover B. Triplett. These are the longest continually maintained no-tillage research plots in the world. The two OSU agronomy faculty were assisted by OSU agricultural engineer, W. H. (Bill) Johnson who modified a planter to work with no tillage. The plots were named the “Triplett- Van Doren No-Tillage Experimental Plots” in 2003.

Others who were active in adopting and promoting no-till in the 1960s are also scheduled to speak: Bill

Richards, farmer; Bill Haddad, chemical rep; and Don Myers, OSU professor.

When David Brandt, Fairfield County, planted his first no-till field in 1971, Glover Triplett, Bill Haddad and Don Myers were all there to advise him. He is still farming with no-till and cover crops, and working with no-till farmers across the Midwest to help them succeed.

There will be much more on the program than history. Steve Culman, OSU Soil Fertility Specialist, is managing the no-till plots, and will have his grad students describe their latest research findings. The Wayne County SWCD is working with us to cover topics on livestock grazing and manure application on no-till.

Demonstrations of various Soil Health Test methods will be provided by Alan Sundermeier and Rafiq Islam of OSU.

These two topics will be concurrent with others on no-till crops and cover crops during the afternoon program.

The program will begin at 9:00 am, and end about 4:00 pm. More details will be confirmed by mid-July.

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