Saturday, February 5, 2011


My message to the Virginia No-Till Alliance includes several steps that could make it complex. I have to break it down and keep it simple.

Right now is the time to go through your no-till drill or planter to get it ready for its big job this spring. It must be in perfect working order. Almost perfect may not be good enough.

The biggest thing we have done to our planter is take the no-till coulter off and modify the row unit so you can plant the first day the soil is ready to plant. Last year my soil was in it's best condition to plant in late March and it stayed that way until almost May as we got more and more showers then it rained almost every day in May. After that, planting conditions were never as good.

This year will be different, no doubt. No two years are identical but many are similar. It's our ability to recognize the differences and make the little adjustmetns that make no-till succeed beyond our wildest dreams.

Some will say they need the coulter for stability on hillsides or they have rocks. They can use the coulter if they feel they must but I recommend they take it off. The double disk openers that make the perfect Vee where the seed is dropped should be new and properly installed either way. That is a key to getting the crop started right. The coulter causes too much slabbing of the trench sidewall in those areas of the field that are just a little wet. If you wait for every field to dry out then some of the soils are too dry to plant in and that is even worse.

If you are planting no-till corn with a no-till planter, running a fertilizer coulter instead of the no-till coulter will get that corn off to a great start by putting 10 to whatever gallons of liquid nitrogen and sulfur off the side of the row. I use one inch away for each 10 gallons of nitrogen as a thumbrule.

I use a no-till gauge wheel tire to transfer the weight of the row unit, ususally several hundred pounds, to the sidewall of the trench to gently lift and expland the trench row without moving the seed out of the pefect Vee we created with the double disk openers. These are keys to a great start to no-till corn that thousands of farmers use successfully every year, some since it's invention in the 90's.

I use the Keeton Seed Firmer to press the seed into the bottom of the trench about 1.5 inches deep. Yes you can use the MoJo wire if you want, I don't.

One of the best additions to the planter is spike closing wheels, often called spader wheels or spading tilling wheels. They replace the rubber or cast iron closing wheels that cause too much compaction in the no-till seed trench.

They gentle till the row pass like a garden tiller, crumbling up enough loose soil to cover the seed and let it breathe but have enough water to germinate quickly and all come up at the same time.

We use the drag chain to lengthen the tillage pass with the planter as it pulls a handful of crumbly loose, rich topsoil evenly over a foot of row, slightly mounding the row. This is really important to get the same amount of soil above each seed so it can all germinate within 24-48 hours of each seed so each plant will be mature at the same time.

Some want to use one spading wheel, some want no drag chain but the system works best as the now TradeMarked Martin Till system. I have seen some that work almost as well but it is the best system I have seen and I can recommend it.

The same thing can be done to the no-till drill and we will talk about that tomorrow.


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