The 2023 National No-Tillage Conference brought more than 850 people together in one place and, as always, focused on the mission to provide industry-leading and insightful information about improving soil health, cutting down on unnecessary costs, input strategies, cutting-edge technology and more. The industry leaders who spoke at the conference included Gregg Sauder, David Hula, Randy Dowdy, Jerry Hatfield, Marion Calmer, Ray Archuleta, Rob Saik and many others.

From intimate roundtable discussions to medium-sized classroom presentations to general sessions with hundreds of people gathered in one ballroom, farmers from around the world educated each other and learned from those who do it best.

From the Ground Up

One of the most highly attended general sessions was led by Gregg Sauder, founder of two revolutionary ag technology companies, Precision Planting, which was launched in the early 1990s and later sold to Monsanto, and 360 Yield Center. Sauder addressed the crowd about his struggles in the 1990s and the first time that Eugene Keeton, inventor of the Keeton Seed Firmer and other groundbreaking planter technologies, and his wife visited the Sauder farm and tested out the prototype of Keeton’s seed firmer.

“This happened at the same exact time that the seed cost per acre exploded. Corn went from $25 an acre to $125 an acre,” Sauder says. “We couldn’t have had better timing with Precision Planting. We were saying to people, ‘We need to take your planter to a whole new level.’ No matter where you lived, I could take you 10-15 bushel better.”

Sauder also talked about representatives from John Deere approaching him early on about some of his innovative ideas and how he might be sparking some serious competition. “Deere sent their VP down, and he said, ‘You’re a problem for us.’ I said, ‘Good,’” Sauder says. “I had no fear. I wasn’t smart enough to have fear.” The key takeaway from Sauder’s session was although it might seem like there is never a good time for implementing new ideas, you have to jump when good opportunities present themselves. “It’d be easy just to say, ‘I’m too busy. I’m too important. I don’t have time in the middle of planting season,’” Sauder says. “But we take those opportunities, don’t we?”

Soil Health Imperatives

Ray Archuleta, a No-Till Innovator who many refer to as the “godfather of soil health,” gave a moving presentation to a crowd of several hundred about regenerative agriculture and the power of the plant. Archuleta outlined a few key points throughout his presentation, starting with the “connectedness” of everything in the natural system. “Everything you do on the farm is connected, and the impact is incredible,” Archuleta says.

Archuleta stressed that the soil is alive, pointing out that it breathes, reproduces and runs on intelligent design. He showed a video of plants breathing using their stomata, the microscopic pores of plant tissue that allow for gas exchange, and explained how plants capture carbon from the air and use it to grow.

Another one of Archuleta’s biggest philosophies is staying focused on the goal. He wants every no-tiller to know that the goal is not simply to no-till or to use cover crops, which he considers tools. The goal, he says, is to mimic or emulate nature’s principles and patterns. “Our goal is not no-till, it is to emulate the incredible design of nature,” Archuleta says.

Early Bird Tech Talks

Those who arrived at the NNTC ahead of the official kickoff were given the opportunity to attend Tech Talks. These sessions gave attendees the chance to gain valuable knowledge about cutting edge new products and application principles. The presentations typically examine a different solution and/or how-to tip, followed by a Q&A session where attendees can get clarification or ask follow-ups about any of the points made during the presentations.