Monday, January 12, 2009


Acronyms everywhere! Acronyms have become the trademark of today's specialization. What is NNTC? NNTC stands for National NoTillage Conference and the 17th annual version is coming this week to the Westin Hotel in downtown Indianapolis.

I wandered across my first one in the mid-nineties when I was in St. Louis for an IPSA meeting. IPSA stands for Independent Professional Seedsman Association. I watched a few presentations and was hooked.

What is no-till farming anyhow? Every farmer knows what it is and has probably tried it. Now over 70% of the soybeans in the United States are planted no-till but only 24% of the corn acres are.

No-till was started as a way to conserve soil and prevent erosion in the late fifties and earely sixties. The first commercial no-till planter I ever saw was the Allis Chalmers 400 planter. Soon farmers learned no-till crops could take the heat of summer better because of the mulch between the rows.

The problem was weed control. There were few or no chemicals available to farmers in those days. Ortho paraquat was one of the first products out for no-till and farmers would spray paraquat and no-till into the dead mulch. It worked with some success but never really caught on until better machinery was developed to plant with.

We started no-tilling in 1976 when dad rented a White 5100 no-till planter and we planted our first no-till corn. I still have a six row 5100 planter today and it works as well as any no-till planter out there.

John Deere came out with their 750 no-till drill in the early nineties and drilling cereal crops like wheat and soybeans took off to the acres we have today. No one really made a great no-till planter so Howard Martin in Kentucky worked with Eugene Keeton in Tennessee and the Reed Brothers and their cousin David Moeller in Iowa to develop the first successful "system" of no-till parts added to a corn planter. That system has caught on and thousands of farmers have adopted this system.

These changes have been part of the information shared at the NNTC in recent years. The conference was started and is put on annually by Frank Lessiter of Lessiter publications and his great staff out of Wisconsin. With their sponsors like Syngenta they award national no-till awards to farmers, consultants, companies and groups who have earned recognition helping spread the no-till message.

Recently more and more farmers have adopted no-till farming as a way to cut costs with increasing fuel prices yet get comparable yields to the best conventional farming yields. Yields of over 300 bushel corn and 100 bushel wheat and soybeans have been achieved by no-till "innovators." Frank is shown presenting me an award at the conference in my bio(until I upload a different picture.)

As I have mentioned, this is a very innovative group of farmers and those who supply them and work with them. Many of us look forward to the conference each year and there are many repeat attendees.

The 17th annual conference is entitled "Charging Ahead With No-Till" and starts Wednesday at the Westin Hotel in downtown Indianapolis.

I look forward to meeting some of you there and seeing my friends there whom I have already had the pleasure of meeting. I will report more of what we learn and talk about in future posts.

See you in Indianapolis!

Ed Winkle

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