No-Till Corn Planting

 

For generations, the cycle of growing corn to feed cattle has been pretty much the same: every spring farmers spread the winter’s accumulation of manure on the corn fields, plow them under, and smooth them out with harrows before planting the season’s corn.

 

Plowing and harrowing acres and acres for corn every spring is an expensive proposition. And more and more we’re realizing that it’s really hard on our soil and our environment. Corn can be planted without tilling the soil first. No-till corn offers lots of benefits to the environment and farmers. For example, no-till corn:

 

  • Improves soil health by leaving a covering of mulch, making it more resilient to drought and less prone to erosion during heavy storms.

  • Reduces soil surface compaction, which helps keep nutrients from getting washed into nearby streams and rivers and keeps them where the corn crop can use them.

  • Cuts down on the amount of fuel that farmers need to burn to get their corn crops started, not to mention labor and wear and tear on equipment.

  • Allows farmers to plant directly into a green, living cover crop, keeping living plant roots in the soil -- key for a healthy soil ecosystem.

 

But it takes a specially-outfitted corn planter that most farmers in New Hampshire don’t have. With funding from a Conservation Innovation Grant from the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service, the New Hampshire Association of Conservation Districts purchased three no-till corn planters this spring that will give farmers a chance to try no-till corn.

 

With a single trip across the field, these planters:

  • Roll down the cover crop, breaking the stems and stopping their growth so it doesn’t compete with the corn crop for water and nutrients

  • Open a furrow that’s just the right depth for planting corn

  • Apply a small amount of fertilizer to help the seedling get started

  • Set the corn seed at the proper depth and spacing

  • Close the furrow over the seeds and gently firm the soil to ensure good seed-to-soil contact

 

Using the planters from the NHACD, farmers can try no-till corn planting without making a huge investment in retrofitting their current planters or replacing them. We have one of the test fields right here in Cheshire County, and we’ll be watching it to see how it does compared with traditionally-planted corn alongside it. So far it looks great!

 

For more information on no-till corn planters, contact Bill Fosher with the NHACD at billfosher@gmail.com.

 

Written by: Bill Fosher - CCCD Board Supervisor

 

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Corn planter in field