No-till delivers with ‘right stuff’

It takes the right crops, rotation and equipment to make no-till work in the wet, cool conditions in eastern North Dakota, says Tim Haakenson, Aneta, N.D.

Farther south and west you can select crops that use more water — corn vs. small grains, for example — when it’s wet, he says.

Key Points

The right crop rotation and equipment affect no-till success.

Haakenson plants corn after low-residue, non-wheat crops.

He says a single disk opener runs cleanest in moist soils.


But in the north, you have to worry about how slowly the soil warms up in the spring and how quickly the days cool off in the fall. As a result, Haakenson sticks mainly with winter wheat and spring wheat. He also grows canola, field peas, corn and soybeans.

Right rotation

The key is rotation. Corn follows low-residue crops, such as soybeans, field peas and canola. He plants soybeans, field peas and canola into spring wheat and winter wheat stubble.

When he was doing tillage, Haakenson grew corn hybrids with a relative maturity of 83 and 84 days. When he started no-till, he switched to 79- and 80-day
relative-maturity hybrids to compensate for years when corn is planted later or grows more slowly early in the season.

Right equipment

Haakenson uses a John Deere no-till drill with single-disk openers to plant canola, soybeans and field peas. The single-disk opener disturbs less soil and can operate in wetter soils than other openers can without plugging.

He equipped his planter with Yetter floating row cleaners to move residue off the seed row. The closing wheel consists of pairs of solid rubber wheels and spiked steel wheels. The combination improves seed-soil contact, he says.

Haakenson uses a stripper header to harvest small grains so that the straw remains upright after harvest. That prevents the thick mat of residue forming on the soil surface. He doesn’t chop cornstalks either, but leaves them upright. He also equipped his combine with a more powerful aftermarket straw spreader to redistribute residue straw and chaff back over the whole width of the header.

Next step

Haakenson says the next step in his no-till evolution is to plant cover crops to use up more moisture in problem wet areas, such as around potholes and in some low fields.

“There’s always a lot of new things coming on to improve no-till,” he says.

This article published in the May, 2011 edition of DAKOTA FARMER.

All rights reserved. Copyright Farm Progress Cos. 2011.