Ohio No-Till Conference draws a crowd

Problems and issues with weeds, slugs or planting into cover crops were all covered at the Ohio No-till Conference on Dec. 6

Steve Groff, Bill Lehmkuhl and Bret Margraf led a discussion covering a broad array of equipment challenges. Attendees learned how to set closing wheels for green covers and how to eliminate hair-pinning (for either green or dead covers). A pusher bar is recommended for tall cover crops. For planting cover crop seed, a planter works best for a single variety. Or with individual hoppers, you can have two varieties in alternate rows, such as Austrian winter pea and oilseed radish. A drill works best for multi-species covers.

“Battling slugs, voles and other varmints that love no-till and cover crops” kicked off the day and attendees learned from the experiences of consultant Mike Daley and Neil Badenhop with Valent. Slugs, voles and other pests can become problematic in the cover of long-term no-till fields with cover crops. Another distinguished panel discussed federal ag policy, especially as it relates to no-till, with moderator Joel Penhorwood of Ohio Ag Net. The panelists were Bill Richards, Mark Smith, and Fred Yoder and they covered a broad array of topics including the farm bill, the role of government cooperation in conservation and incentives for no-till and cover crops.

The annual No-Till Awards were presented to: soil scientist Frank Gibbs, Fisher’s Ag Service and Pickaway County no-till farmer Nathan Wilson. Scholarships were presented to two students, Chet Margraf and Bernard Kuether. Kale Marketing sponsors the plaques.

The afternoon program started with Steve Groff of Pennsylvania. He has a history of no-till innovations and is now coaching farmers on cover crops. His topic is “Cover crops, no-till, and marketing opportunities for crops (and livestock) grown on healthy soil with conservation practices.”

“Cover crops are a tool and a tool needs someone to manage that tool to do it right. A tool in the right hands can do something phenomenal. You are the manager to make it work right. Our job is to learn how to best manage it and grow your soil. We have forgotten the biology over the last several decades and now we are bringing it back,” Groff said. “Our soils were formed by multiple plant species with living roots in it all of the time. We have violated that principle of nature with our modern farming practices. Green is good in our fields but not in the water. We have a role to play in helping to clean up whatever watershed we happen to be in and I think most of us would prefer the carrot to the stick.”

In addition, no-till farm families shared their stories, a variety of situations, challenges and solutions. The three families were: Nathan Wilson, Pickaway County; Nathan Brause, Crawford County; and Vince, Dan and Tyler Uetrecht, Warren County.

The closing speaker was Jeff Stachler, OSU Extension in Auglaize County. He studied weeds for his Ph.D. and discussed strategies and practices to battle resistant weeds, including waterhemp, Palmer, and ragweed. Even if you don’t currently have a problem, you likely will soon if you don’t plan to prevent infestations.

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