If you no-till today and do it seamlessly with modern equipment and precision technology, you ought to stop and think about the first people who were brave enough to try no-till. They paved the way for others coming behind them to take what they learned and help turn it into efficient, productive systems.
One of the first people to try no-till in Indiana was Bob Robison, Greenwood. He worked off the farm in ag research but loved trying new ideas on his farm.
Recently, Bob celebrated his 90th birthday. “The entire family gathered to help him celebrate,” says his son Don, now seed administrator in the Office of the Indiana State Chemist. “Dad still does pretty well for his age. He rode the tractor as we planted this spring, and he’s still active every day around the farm.”
Not everything Bob tried in the ’60s and ’70s as far as no-till worked, Don notes. “He was definitely on the bleeding edge of both no-till and cover crops.”
Sometimes Bob’s efforts led to weedy fields and snickers from neighbors, still bent on moldboard plowing and conventional farming in those days. There were failures, but he stuck to it, never abandoning his belief that no-till could work, save soil and be an efficient system for raising crops.
Perhaps Bob was ahead of the technology as much as anything. Planters didn’t have the ability to penetrate the soil in every situation in those days, and there was a scarcity of herbicides that worked effectively in no-till systems.
More recently, Don and his brothers have upgraded their equipment, and have even conducted important trials comparing various cover crop choices on their farm.
Hats off to one of Indiana’s early conservation innovators!