Has interest in no-till planting peaked and is it waning fast? I ask that question because I see a lot of tillage being done this fall. I see farmers who were huge proponents of no-till for 10 years or more and are now doing tillage with chisel plows or elaborate cultivators. I saw tillage demonstrations at the Outdoor Farm Show in Woodstock. Many farm folk showed keen interest in the eight cultivators doing their thing. Tillage, tillage, tillage!
Farm publications all feature numerous colourful ads about their superior tillage machines. The ads sure endorse tillage. Here are a few: “If you’re serious about yield, you’re serious about the quality of your seedbed because that’s where yield potential begins. Only one gets so much done in a single pass….”
“Hydraulically-adjustable gang angle On-the-Go….”
“The (name brand) is the perfect machine for one-pass residue management. It combines mixing quality with a high acreage performance and superior efficiency. The aggressive dual cutting angle provides optimal penetration and an unrivaled mixing intensity. Consistent working depth of up to eight inches.”
“Primary tillage, seedbed preparation, deep mixing or ripping. The (brand name) can do it all in one pass.”
Farm organizations such as the Christian Farmers Federation of Ontario (CFFO) promote soil health by endorsing reducing or eliminating tillage. But, in reality, many of their members are tillers of the soil and some still use a mouldboard plow.
The Ottawa Rideau Regional and the Frontenac County Soil and Crop Improvement Association’s organized a bus tour for Sept. 26 to a world-class 1,200-acre no-till operation: Kaiser Lake Farms at Napanee. The event was well publicized for members of the Eastern Ontario Soil and Crop Improvement Associations, which serves Frontenac, Grenville, Lanark, Leeds, Ottawa-Carleton and Renfrew.
In addition to a visit to Kaiser Farms, there was also a scheduled stop at MacKinnon Brothers Brewing Co. at Bath where cold beer could be sampled.
There was no cost for the trip by bus — a big coach. There were pickup points at Arnprior, Carleton Place, Smiths Falls, Elgin and along the way to Kingston.
How many people do you think were on the bus for this outing to Napanee to see and learn more about the benefits of no-till? Seven farm folk from Renfrew County got on the bus in Arnprior. Five at Carleton Place and similar numbers at the other stops for a total of 26 people. Would more people have gone on a bus tour that featured tillage demonstrations? Definitely! Maybe some CFFO members might have shown interest in going on that outing.
Kaiser Lake Farms, in the Bay of Quinte peninsula near Napanee, is well worth spending a day on a bus. It has 1,200 acres of crop land in one huge block with a gravel road going around the perimeter and roads through the middle. The Kaisers (Eric and his son Max) gave us (all 26) a wagon tour around their farm and through the centre to see the crops. Eric said the block of land is tiled anywhere from 20- to 60-foot centres and if he ever won the lottery he’d tile it at five-foot centres. To get crops in early you need good tile drainage, he said.
Kaiser Lake Farms is a no-till operation. They have one machine that’s been modified and it plants their corn, soybeans and wheat. The Kaisers were among the first in the province to stop tilling, which they did 12 years ago over their entire acreage.
“We saw the merit of the idea for our heavy clay soil and it’s worked very well,” Eric said as he showed the group the large, no-till planter.
With no-till, seeds are planted directly into the soil and no tilling is involved. There was no tillage equipment to be seen in Kaiser’s huge machine shops.
The corn and wheat from their crop operation are used at the Kaisers’ feed mill, which in turn supplies their layer and pullet operation. “Being able to use the crops here on the farm instead of trucking them away helps reduce environmental impact,” Max noted.
The pizza lunch was paid for by sponsors, as was the cold beer at MacKinnons. The cold beer was great on this hot, sunny afternoon.