Wednesday, September 28, 2022

No-Till Success in Fromberg Montana


by Krist Walstad, Joliet District Conservationist and Byrhonda Lyons, Public Affairs Specialist

When the Schlemmers first heard about the benefits of no-till, they were not completely sold on the idea.  “I am always open to new ideas, but because of my age, I am a bit more cautious,” said Irvin Schlemmer, who owns the farm with his son, Greg.  “So we no-tilled a few acres to see if it would work.”

The Schlemmer family farms 1,500 acres in Fromberg, Mont.  And after leaping into no-till, the father and son duo have not looked back.  “My 'aha' moment was when irrigating worked better than normal,” said Greg Schlemmer.  “The barley started out with a natural seedbed.  And the stubble held the water back—keeping it [water] from washing.” 

Greg also noted that because of the steep land, traditionally, silt has been a problem on the farm.  However, after implementing no-till practices, silt is no longer an issue. 

No-till beet (L), conventional beet (R).

Another no-till benefit:  lowering input costs.  No-till has allowed the family to limit soil disturbance—decreasing their inputs.  “If you don't work the soil, you keep more nutrients,” Greg said.  “We find ourselves using less and less fertilizer.” They are also saving money on fuel, since they no longer have to prep the field with tillage.

Last year, the Schlemmers' share of no-till sugar beets saved the family approximately $130 per acre in inputs, compared to their conventional sugar beets.  This year, the Schlemmers plan to continue with their no-till sugar beets practices; 75 percent of their beet acres will be no-till.  When asked why not no-till 100 percent of their sugar beets, Greg said, “Dad just wouldn’t go for it.” For those who are thinking of going the no-till route, Greg has a little advice.

“Try a small patch [of land] first,” he said.  “And give yourself an honest chance. Trust me, if we weren't making money doing this [no-till], we wouldn't be doing it.”


Source:  Montana NRCS

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