Nebraska No-till Conferences Feb. 23, 24

Nebraska No-till Conferences Feb. 23, 24

Using No-till and Building Soil Health

Dan Forgery
Dan Forgey, manager of Cronin Farms near Gettysburg, S.D., is showing a no-till wheat field to some Nebraskans on a no-till bus tour.
Jay Fuhrer
Jay Fuhrer, NRCS Conservationist in North Dakota, is showing three examples of soil health to a group touring the Menoken Farm near Bismarck, N.D.

The 2015 Nebraska No-till Conferences will focus on improving your no-till system and building soil health. The all-day, free events will be Monday, Feb. 23 in Beatrice and Tuesday, Feb. 24 in Holdrege.

No-till production practices have been shown to improve profitability while conserving soil and water. Building soil health further improves productivity and reduces inputs by increasing the biological activity and organic matter in the soil.  With a healthier soil, crops are healthier and better able to withstand stresses and weather variability.

Speakers from UNL Extension, NRCS, and production agriculture will share information on the five principles of soil health:

  1. Keep soil covered.
  2. Minimize soil disturbance.
  3. Increase plant diversity.
  4. Keep living roots in the soil year-round.
  5. Integrate livestock grazing.

Local producers will share their experiences on a farmer panel, reflecting on what the speakers presented.

The Feb. 23 conference will be in the 4-H Building on the Gage County Fairgrounds in Beatrice, beginning with registration and refreshments at 9:30 a.m. followed by the program at 10 a.m. Host Paul Hay, extension educator in Gage County, says attendees do not have to pre-register for this free conference. Jay Fuhrer of the USDA Natural Resource Conservation Service's Bismarck, N.D. office and Dan Forgey of Gettysburg, S.D. will be featured speakers at this location, sharing tips and ideas on the importance of soil health and diversifying farming operations.

The farmer panel at the Beatrice conference will include Tyler Burkey, Dorchester, Dave Endorf, Daykin, Ben Steffen, Humboldt, and Russell Moss, Burr.

The Feb. 24  conference will be held at the Ag Center in Holdrege, beginning with registration and refreshments at 9 a.m. and the program at 9:30 a.m. Host Chuck Burr, extension educator at the West Central Research and Extension Center in North Platte, says attendees do need to pre-register for lunch at this free conference. To register call the Phelps County Extension Office at 308-995-4222. Among the speakers will be Dan Forgey of Gettysburg, S.D., who will discuss the benefits of diversifying farming operations, and producer and educator Mark Watson of Alliance, who will discuss water and irrigation management. A panel of farmers will share their experience at the Holdrege conference as well.

Other speakers at both conferences will include:

  • No-till producer Dan Gillespie of Norfolk, on no-till corn and soybeans, cover crops, and practical observations
  • Nebraska Extension Engineer Paul Jasa on seeding and management of cover crops.

Speaker Profiles

  • Speaking at both conferences will be Dan Forgey, manager of the 8,500-acre Cronin Farms near Gettysburg, S.D. for over 40 years (right). Forgery strives to build soil health – and yields – sustainably by using no-till, cover crops, cropping diversity, and livestock.  Before no-till was implemented at Cronin Farms in 1993, four people used three tractors with a total of 525 hp to complete the fieldwork. By no-tilling, they've reduced equipment needs to one tractor with 255 hp, a 40 ft planter, a 40 ft airseeder, and only two drivers.  Forgery will share how a diverse no-till system with cover crops has allowed the farm to increase yields by more than 25% while almost doubling its soil organic matter.
  • Jay Fuhrer, Soil Health Specialist for the North Dakota NRCS, (left) will be a featured speaker at the Beatrice site, discussing the Five Principles of Soil Health and how producers can use them to improve their production and profitability. Fuhrer has years of experience in North Dakota working with no-till, cover crops, and soil health.  He was instrumental in developing Menoken Farm, a farm owned and operated by the Burleigh County Soil and Water Conservation District to research and demonstrate practices that build soil health. He will share how improved soil health benefits producer, now and for generations to come.

  • Paul Jasa, Extension Engineer with the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, develops and conducts educational programs on crop production systems that improve profitability, build soil health, and reduce risks to the environment.  He has been working with planting equipment and tillage system evaluation at the university since 1978 and has learned even more from working with producers across Nebraska.  He shares that information in presentations that stress the systems approach and the long-term benefits of continuous no-till.

  • Dan Gillespie, Nebraska NRCS No-till Specialist, is based in the Norfolk Field Office.  Gillespie has been farming in an irrigated and dryland continuous no-till corn/soybean operation for over 20 years.  About 10 years ago, he added wheat and cover crops to his rotation to increase erosion control and build soil organic matter. These changes helped decrease ephemeral gully control problems in highly erodible fields, improving soil quality, and increased yields on the low organic matter sandy soils and the degraded silty clay loam soils.
  • Mark Watson, Panhandle No-till Education Coordinator on a Nebraska Environmental Trust Fund grant, farms 3,500 acres with his brother, Bruce, north of Alliance. Their farms have been completely in continuous no-till since 1994 on both irrigated and dryland fields. By using no-till, they have gone to continuous cropping on their dryland acres in a typical wheat/fallow production area. With no-till, they have greatly reduced their irrigation application amounts while improving yields and profitability. Watson has considerable experience with dry edible bean production and has been instrumental in bringing edible pea production to western Nebraska.

These conferences are supported by local sponsors, a grant from the Nebraska Environmental Trust Fund, Nebraska Extension, and Nebraska NRCS. 

For more information on these conferences or no-till crop production, contact Nebraska Extension Engineer Paul Jasa at or visit the Tillage and No-till Systems Management section of CropWatch.

Paul Jasa
Nebraska Extension Engineer

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