Case IH tillage tool
DROP LAND OR BUY TOOLS? If a landowner insists on conventional tillage and you are 100% no-till, do you invest in tillage tools or let the farm go?

Stand on no-till principles or appease landlord?

Profit Planners: Panelists offer differing advice for dealing with a landowner who doesn’t want no-till.

One landowner told us that if we continue no-tilling and don’t till his fields in the future, he will get a new tenant next year. No-till works for us, and we use cover crops. It’s cash rent, but he says we have too many weeds, which we don’t. We would have to buy some better tillage tools to farm his 160 acres conventionally. We hate to give up ground, but my son and I both believe in no-till. Do we give in or let him find someone else?

The Profit Planners panel includes: David Erickson, farmer, Altona, Ill.; Mark Evans, Purdue University Extension educator, Putnam County, Ind.; Steve Myers, farm manager, Busey Ag Resources, LeRoy, Ill.; and Chris Parker, cattle, forage and timber producer, Morgan County, Ind.

Erickson: I can’t help but wonder if there is more to this situation than this landowner is sharing with you. Maybe this demand is an indication of some other problems with your business relationships. I would ask a good friend or business associate to give you a fair evaluation of your farming practices on this farm. If you get good feedback, then you need to decide whether this request is something you can afford to meet, or if it’s just not worth the extra costs to keep this property.

Evans: Your no-till and cover crop operation is more profitable to you than a conventional operation, so investing in tillage equipment would not be profitable for you. However, the first two or three years of tilling a long-term no-till field provides the same significant nutrient and organic matter release that occurs when tilling a long-term hay or Conservation Reserve Program field. It would seem such a shame to let someone else have those benefits that you have built up. If the landlord is set on incorporating tillage, perhaps you could do it via custom work or leasing equipment to do the desired tillage with a two-year lease. Then drop the landlord. In the end, this is an unfortunate situation — abandoning what has been established over time. Try to continue to educate before giving up. 

Myers: You have a landowner who has indicated what he or she wants done on their farm. Failing to do so will end the relationship. It’s clear as you have stated the situation. It’s totally your call, but failure to yield on this topic today will give you little or no chance or opportunity of changing the landowner’s mind in the future. It’s not about giving in but about being patient, flexible and accommodating to his or her wishes.

Parker: There are still some landowners whose paradigm is plow and disk. If you can’t convince him or her of your wise stewardship of their land through frank communication of the benefits of no-till and cover crops, especially from a soil’s perspective, then I would say forego the 160 aces. You are committed to no-till, and your overall operational mindset plus equipment are designed for no-till. Buying equipment for this 160 acres to appease the landowner would be a burden to your overall efficiency and probably create resentment over time on your part. Do not compromise your agronomic principles on a system that works for you. Don’t let yourself be bullied.   

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