Conservation has revealed itself to be quite profitable for Joe Zenz, Lancaster, WI, who topped the 2011 Non-irrigated Wisconsin Soybean Yield Contest at 92.8 bu./acre, with no-till drilled beans. "This was the first time I entered the contest, which is now in its second year," says Zenz, who planted his contest field on May 1 with Asgrow 2403 RR seed. "I knew the field had good potential, even though the fertility had been fairly low on this farm. Five years ago it was in the Conservation Reserve Program. For the first three years after the field was in CRP, I no-tilled corn into it, and I've been adding fertility to it pretty aggressively."

Last fall, Zenz applied 200 lbs. potash/acre, 100 lbs. gypsum/acre and 200 lbs. phosphorus/acre. Even more importantly, he says, is the fact that his contest acres have yet to see a plow since being enrolled in CRP for 20 years and while growing no-till corn and soybeans on it after CRP.

"I knew we were dealing with a field that had very good organic matter in it, and when I planted beans in this field last year, it was virgin soybean ground," says Zenz. "On former CRP acres, the last thing you want to do is use conventional tillage. If you no-till, then you reap the advantage of improved organic matter and water infiltration for quite a few years."

The field was also fortunate to have had timely rains, says Zenz, who farms on rolling ground in southwestern WI, about 25 miles straight north of Dubuque, IA. "Our farm was in a pocket between areas that had too much rain in the spring or too little rain during summer," he says. "We at least caught the rains when they were timely, but we also had hail damage on some fields."