More than a Field of Dreams – it's Reality

Northern Iowa farmer uses Smart-Till to return to his no-till roots.

Dr. Daniel Davidson, Agronomist

Dave Kronlage a corn, soybean and pork producer farms near Dyersville, Iowa home of the famed farmstead/baseball diamond where the movie "Fields of Dreams" was shot. Kronlage wants to be a no-tiller and tried but discovered that no-tilling was a challenge in the heavier dark soils of eastern Iowa and he couldn’t succeed.

Kronlage’s dream was to be a no-tiller. He said "I bought my first no-till planter in the 1990s to save soil and tried to no-till as much as possible. I wanted something to keep the soil in place and no-till seems like the answer." He has owned his 15-foot Smart-Till for over a year and is going into his second season and is pleased with its performance. And he likes having the rolling basket to help incorporate fertilizer and manure while throwing soil on the residue. The tool leaves all the stalks on top of the soil so he is still in compliance with the NRCS.

But Kronlage learned with his soils and farming practices, no-till is a challenge when planting corn and he can’t incorporate manure or fertilizer. So he had to return to more conventional tillage practices including chiseling in the fall and running a finisher in the spring. But he hadn’t forgotten his dream!

Kronlage went to a field day where the Smart-Till was demonstrated and he became intrigued. "I checked it out further on-line and then got a recommendation from my agronomist who agreed it was a tool that could accomplish what I needed." He added "I had to check out whether it would incorporate manure and fertilizer and in a corn after corn rotation if it worked in heavier residue."

Kronlage’s rotation is 60 percent corn soybeans and 40 percent second year corn. When planting corn into soybean stubble he uses no-till. And when he broadcasts manure first on soybean stubble, then he incorporates with a Smart-Till. However, in a corn after corn rotation, he runs the Smart-Till twice to kick out more rootballs. First pass is made with the harrows up to process the cornstalks, then he broadcasts manure followed by running the Smart-Till a second pass with harrows down to incorporate the manure and level the field.

2010 was his first season. "I am very happy with my corn and soybean rotation. And when I run the Smart-Till more water infiltrates and the soil dries faster and I can incorporate manure. Our goal is to get cornstalks to break up and deteriorate quickly and over time our soil already is becoming mellower."

Kronlage, like Rice in Illinois wants to no-till and recognizes that the Smart-Till helps him achieve it since he can handle the corn residue and doesn’t have to worry about cool and wet soil conditions that can hinder corn emergence in soils if he no tills.

And like many farmers west of the Mississippi he finally got to the field after the first of May and was able to run his Smart-Till over cornstalks prior to planting corn.