Keith Thompson – No-Till Farming

(Keith) My name is Keith Thompson. I’m from Osage City, Kansas. I’ve been a continuous no tiller since 1992. And I’ve been on the No Till Board, member for almost the inception of No Till on the Plains. We have row crops, cattle. We grow corn, soybeans, sunflowers, wheat, rye, and just whatever seems to be needed. Lots of cover crops. The first time that I’d seen cover crops and covers being rolled down was in 1999. We took a trip at South America to Argentina, specifically to look at no till rotations and long term breaks. And that was where I got introduced to how they were using covers for cattle. First time I saw how they used long term breaks to break up weed pressures. I remember one of the pastures we was in I was telling the guy I was concerned about how many thistles I had in the pasture and I said in Kansas I’d would get arrested or not arrested, but we would get a ticket for a noxious weed. And he said he couldn’t understand why that was a problem cause that was the last year that was a pasture, it was going to be three or four years of crops and there would be no more thistles. And that was I want to say the time when it really got into my…understood how a long term doing something and a break from something would help you control weeds. One of the reasons my move to no till, was to keep soil losses. We were seeing lots of…I didn’t like seeing the soil blow. I didn’t like working worked ground again, it was real rough. And water conservation, that was the reasons I got started with no till. But the longer you used no till, you keep learning more and more and you find out there’s more to it than just not working the soil. That’s just step one. And so then over the years, I’ve learned the value of long term rotations, diversity into the landscape, understanding how much intensity you have. And intensity is how the type of crop you plant, how quickly it uses up water. Where I live, we actually started growing covers to use up excess water we had in the Spring, so we could just plant. The further you go west well that becomes the opposite way. That’s not a worry. So, it kind of depends on we use covers to manage concerns we have. The number one thing that is true about using a cover every time, is we see less weeds in our crops. One of the things I discovered first, when I first started going to conferences about no till was, it dawned on me I need to get the rest of the family involved in coming to these. Trying to explain this was almost too much trouble. I learned how to take pamphlets and things to my landlords so they would understand why I was doing what we were doing. Because it was when we just started really using lots of covers in 2002 it seemed odd to a landlord, like what are you doing this? And then explaining the benefits of nutrient recycling. The big term now everybody uses is soil health. There is truth to a healthy soil growth, healthier crops. You see it all the time. Since we started using cover and doing no till I’ve cut my insecticide use I would say, 99 percent. And herbicide use, I know we are not… we don’t have to use as much. We still use herbicides. I don’t… at this time it’s something we have to use. I can see that with covers we use less and less. And I know that I would say in the last ten years we’ve even cut our herbicide total use by half. Cause a lot of times we don’t even have to spray a second time of one time deal. Between the covers and a pre controls our weeds for the summer.

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