Mike Werling started no-tilling and planting cover crops to reduce erosion on his 350-acre farm. He’s also reducing his nitrogen rates. His goal is to produce a bushel of corn with 0.75 pounds of applied nitrogen—to meet his 180-bushel target on 125 to 145 pounds of N—but he often ends up doing even better, harvesting over 200 bushels per acre.
“I don’t promote lowering rates when you’re starting this kind of thing—that will bite you,” says Werling, who started with minimum tillage in the 1980s and switched to no-till in 1994, boosting his soil organic matter by more than 50% and in some fields, even doubling it. Today, his whole-farm average for soil organic matter is 3.3%, and some areas boast 4% or even 5%.