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Home North Carolina Haywood County City of Waynesville Historical Markers No-till Farming

No-till Farming

NC-209 at Crabtree, Waynesville, NC, USA
  North Carolina State Historical Marker
    North Carolina State
Historical Marker
    Marker Text:
"State's first no-till crop planted in 1962. Method since widely adopted. Field was 300 yards northeast."
     No-till farming is one of several types of conservation tillage that minimizes soil disturbance. In its infancy, the process was often called sod planting. As either name implies, the method of farming involves the placement of seeds of plants into the soil amidst the residue of a previous crop without any plowing. Since most of the soil surface is left undisturbed, runoff is reduced, preventing erosion and conserving water for the crop. The method also increases the concentration of useful insects in the fields, allows for more extensive farming of sloped fields, and improves the quality of the soil. By utilizing the no-till technique, farmers also have the opportunity to farm more acres due to fewer constraints on time and labor.

     Harry Young, a Kentucky farmer, is generally credited with planting the first modern-era no-till crop in the United States in 1962. John Kirkpatrick, a Haywood County dairy farmer, planted a no-till corn crop the same year. He planted his corn into old fescue sod, building and patenting a “machine that enabled him to plant corn in sod by disturbing only a few inches of soil.” With rows of corn surrounded by grass ranging up to three feet tall, it is not surprising that people were skeptical of Kirkpatrick’s plan.

     A report in 1964 indicated that “many individuals and groups came from several states to observe this corn and his method for producing such a high yield.” Kirkpatrick obtained a good harvest from the sod-planted corn, proving that the method was viable. At least four men who visited his farm began to plant no-till crops the next year. An article about no-till farming in the June 1972 issue of The Progressive Farmer gives a nod to Kentucky, Virginia, and North Carolina as the states where the technique was pioneered. As of 2004 approximately 42.5 percent of all field crops in North Carolina, and 23 percent of crops nationwide, were planted using no-till methods. John Kirkpatrick, still living in Haywood County, has seen his farming method go from laughingstock to standard practice.

H. J. Williams, “High Corn Yields Obtained by Sod Planting Method” (ca. 1962)
Bobby Brock and others, “Ten Milestones in Conservation Tillage,” paper presented at Soil
Science Society of North Carolina meeting, 2000, available online at:
No-Till Farming website: http://www.rolf-derpsch.com/notill.htm
United States Department of Agriculture, “Planting Corn in Sod” (ca. 1964), copy in marker files, Research Branch, North Carolina Office of Archives and History