ILF farmer partner John Kielkopf grows corn and soybeans near Hedrick in Keokuk County. John’s dad, Ron, started no-till on their farm in the early 1990’s when the first no-till drills were released. John and his dad believe their no-till system does less damage to soil structure compared to a system relying on extensive full-width tillage. Long-term no-till has improved water infiltration on their fields.
“After a big rain, I can drive around and see the water standing in the planter wheel tracks in tilled fields, and can’t even see the planter tracks in no-till fields. I think this shows where the water is infiltrating,” says Kielkopf.
About half of Kielkopf’s corn acres are planted no-till and half are planted following a single spring soil finisher pass. Corn is planted in a corn-soybean rotation and almost all the soybean acres are planted no-till into standing cornstalks. He is particular about adjusting his planter set-up based on soil conditions at planting. For corn, row units are equipped with row cleaners and in-furrow seed firmers. In dry soil conditions a wavy coulter and cast iron closing wheels are used on row units. In moist soils John removes the wavy coulter and one cast iron closing wheel and replaces it with a spiked closing wheel to break up sidewall compaction. He adds drag chains to ensure soil crumble into the seed furrow. For soybean planting, Kielkopf runs wavy coulters and cast iron closing wheels in all conditions.The fields are grid-sampled every four years and variable-rate dry phosphorus and potassium fertilizer are applied as needed. Fall-applied anhydrous ammonia supplies nitrogen for corn.
The crop management system Kielkopf uses leaves more residue on the surface; Goss’s Wilt and other corn diseases have not required fungicide treatment. “We scout extensively during the growing season and we have not seen significant disease pressure. We make an effort to choose disease-resistant corn hybrids whenever possible.