Long-Term No-Till, Soil Health Focus Boosts Yields

Long-Term No-Till, Soil Health Focus Boosts Yields

Mark Montel’s long-term commitment to no-tilling and soil tilth is rebuilding his shallow, rocky soils and blowing his corn and soybean yields well past county averages.

Although more than two decades of no-till practices have been good to Mark Montel, 8 years ago he describes hitting a wall as his regular soil tests showed he wasn’t building soil organic matter very quickly.

No-till practices weren’t doing enough to improve his soil resource. So Montel shifted his priorities to building soil health and it’s paying off: Montel harvested an average of 197 bushels of corn per acre across the farm last fall, and 72-bushel soybeans — both records for his 500-acre operation in central Indiana and way above county averages.

He isn’t sure if the poultry litter, volunteer buckwheat, foliar micronutrients or pre-plant sulfur applications did the trick with soybeans, but he’s thrilled with his yields. “I think I’m getting to point where I’m seeing some benefits in building up soil health. I heard other people around here had good corn yields but not those kind of soybean yields.”

Starting Out

Mark Montel no-tills about 200 acres each of corn and soybeans and 100 acres of soft red winter wheat near Claypool, Ind. He’s been no-tilling for more than 25 years, starting in 1988 after making some trips to Jim Kinsella’s farm in Illinois to learn about the practice.