Corn Farmers Coalition

New Farming Techniques Mean Less Greenhouse Gases

Rob Rettig (Napoleon, Ohio)

The next time you stick a bag of popcorn in the microwave, you may be popping Rob Rettig’s corn.

Rob’s family has been farming for 140 years outside the historic city of Napoleon (population 9,300) in northwest Ohio, beside the Maumee River. Rob, 47, is a summa cum laude graduate in agriculture from Ohio State University. He has farmed his whole life.

Rob grows yellow corn and popcorn on 1,500 acres and employs four people. For 25 years, he has been growing that corn without breaking the soil, a practice called no-till farming.

Tilling, the traditional method of farming for millennia, involves plowing the soil to remove weeds, add fertilizer, shape the soil into rows and furrows for irrigation and prepare the soil for seeds.

No-till farming keeps greenhouse gases locked in the ground, requires less work and protects the soil from erosion.

Thanks to advances in biotechnology and new kinds of corn resistant to herbicides, Rob can use herbicides to kill weeds instead of tilling. Even so, he’s cut his use of herbicides by half. The tractor fuel he saves by not tilling is as much as 70 percent every year. And corn resistant to pesticides means he has cut pesticide use to nearly nothing.

That’s not only a lot of savings, it’s better for the environment and it still produces an abundant supply of corn.

“I’m excited about the positive effects of technology,” he says. “Trends such as corn produced with dramatically less nitrogen [fertilizer] and improved drought tolerance could more efficiently feed the world and reduce the global pressure to crop fragile lands.

“Our mission statement in a nutshell is to leave the land in better condition than we began with it.”

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