Ryan Lefler interviewed Northern Douglas producer Norman Tupling, a Voluntary Stewardship Program work group member, who told us how his farm uses reduced tillage as a conservation practice, a method of voluntary stewardship. Norman always had conservation on his mind when he conventionally tilled and maintained a residue stand in his fields to prevent wind erosion. A couple of years ago, Norman started no-tilling and is now switching the majority of his operation over and incorporating new twists to reduce his chemical use.
What practices have you implemented throughout your farm? What has been your number one goal, and why?
I have been doing no-till for the last couple of years. My main goal has been to reduce wind erosion. That is something that has always bothered me. Since I started farming, I always tried to minimize the tillage. [Under conventional till] I was tilling very minimally, and then I started the no-till program with the Foster Creek Conservation District. Since then, we have started doing more no-till to eliminate that wind erosion.
What steps are you taking to change your land management practices, and why?
My first step is incorporating more no-till. I started out with just a few acres, but now we are almost all no-till. I am doing this because of wind erosion and residue. We can keep more residue, hold more [soil] moisture, and reduce that wind erosion. That is one of the main things, I guess. We are also trying to incorporate cattle with the no-till, and that works really well.
Why have you started incorporating cattle with your no-till operation?
I am trying to reduce the amount of chemical that I am using on the chem-fallow. Every year we have a good growth of volunteer wheat and weeds. Well, all those have a certain amount of nutrition, so why not graze cattle on it? You save on cattle feed and reduce the number of times to spray.
What are the best and worst outcomes you have experienced from the conservation practices on your farm?
For me, the no-till thing is fairly new, so I don’t know the worst for sure yet, but the amount of chemicals I use does bug me. I can’t help but think that it is really not good for the long term. Wind erosion is virtually gone and we have more residue, so that is good. I have only been no-tilling for a couple years, so we will see what the next couple years brings. Ask me later and I will have more input on it. For the future, I am interested in biosolids, using cattle with no-till, and making it all work. I’m excited about it all.