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Different tillage preferences could doom deal

Profit Planners: This potential farm lease situation doesn’t sound like a “match made in heaven.”

May 23, 2024

3 Min Read
small corn plants growing in a no-till field
YOUR MOVE: If your neighbor insists on no-till to rent his farm, don’t expect him to bend, even for a higher rent offer, Profit Planners panelists suggest. Tom J. Bechman

A neighbor is retiring this year. He will rent us his 340 acres but insists we no-till. We don’t have no-till equipment. Is it worth buying equipment just for that farm? Should we offer more per acre if he lets us farm our way?

Profit Planners panelists include David Erickson, farmer, Altona, Ill.; Mark Evans, Purdue Extension educator, Putnam County, Ind.; Jim Luzar, landowner and Purdue Extension educator, Clay and Owen counties, Ind.; and Steve Myers, farm manager with Busey Ag Resources, LeRoy, Ill.

Erickson: You should be able to modify your current equipment to successfully no-till if you desire that shift in farming practices to work. No-till farming is more about management preference and conservation efforts than new or additional equipment. Your neighbor must see that you have the management capability to make this switch work. Or is he using this requirement to eliminate you as a possible tenant? Make that determination yourself.

Evans: If I were the landlord and no-tilled long term, I would not ask a conventional-tillage tenant to farm my ground, so this is an odd situation. Maybe it is time you investigate no-till. Starting on a farm that is already conditioned for no-till could be a potentially good place to begin. Then work toward the switch on your current ground. No-till does not mean lower yields over the long term.

To offer more cash may not sit well with the landlord if he truly understands no-till. Tilling a no-till field would be somewhat like tilling a long-term pasture or hayfield for row crops. The nutrient release will result in super crops the first few years of tillage, and then a decline will begin as soil health declines. There are true soil health gains from a pasture, hay or long-term no-till field. Consider your perspective and the opportunity in this situation.

Luzar: If the neighbor insists you no-till, chances are great that a few dollars more per acre will not alter his desire. There may be other competitors geared up for no-tilling that would check that box. It sounds like you aren’t interested in pursuing no-till. Successful no-tilling requires more than just hanging iron on the planter. It takes a systems approach that takes into consideration fertilization, seed selection and pest management. If you adopt no-till just to chase acres, you won’t have the best chance for overall sustained success.

This may be a great opportunity to evaluate your farming system and think about the future. I don’t know how much added profitability this farm will contribute to you. I normally stress evaluation of costs and returns. But above and beyond impersonal numbers, this situation just doesn’t have a good “gut” feel.

Myers: The first part is a math question about no-till equipment upgrades to your planter and how “all in” you would be about investing in those changes. That means not just coulters, but perhaps a starter delivery system or other items. The second part, as written, is obvious when you used the word “insists” for his desire for no-till. I would suggest focusing on whether you can make the adjustments to your operation, economically, that can satisfy this landowner.

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No tillLand Leases
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