What I’ve Learned from No-Tilling: Adding Diversity and Livestock for a Stronger Bottom Line — Now and in the Future


Pictured Above: FARMER IN THE DALLES. Farming in The Dalles, Ore., where just 10-12 inches of rain falls each year, Noah Williams used soil moisture sensors to show that growing a cover crop for 60 days (30 days growing, 30 days grazing) uses the same amount of moisture as is lost to evaporation in chem fallow during the same period

FARMERS WANT TO see a profit. They want to see it every year and with every crop. There’s nothing wrong with that exactly, but I want to consider long term potential benefits and compounding profits as much as short-term gain when weighing management strategies.

I stumbled into no-till because I was playing the crop insurance game and it was the cheapest way to get a crop in the ground. Battling a 5-year drought and going broke fast, the short-term gain of going no-till won out due to it being the more affordable management practice. Long-term gain just happened to follow along with it.

It proved an especially good decision as I let marginal flat land go and started farming the 10-45-degree slopes near The Dalles, Ore., overlooking the Columbia River. No-till helped me rein in erosion and, with the help of chem fallow, win the battle against the morning glory that had flourished with tillage. Winter wheat yields jumped from a 48-bushel average to a 73-bushel average.

Today I know that making decisions that earn me at least some profit, even if it’s small, every year are better than decisions…

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