Irish No-Tillers Experiment with Natural Farming Methods to Boost Soil Health

A father and son who farm together in Ireland received a national award for no-till adoption on their 400 acres.

Michael and Norman Dunne received the Public Choice Award at the National Farming For Nature Ambassador Awards 2021 in October. Thousands of people voted to recognize farmers in Maynooth, Co. Kildare for their efforts to move from conventional tillage to regenerative agriculture.

The Dunnes began converting to no-till in 2016. They grow beans, oats, barley, wheat and hay for animals with no-till and minimal tillage. The family also keeps pigs and sheep to graze catch crops and graze.

They focus on regenerating the soil biology and reducing its inputs. Crop rotations, permanent organic land cover systems and inter-species catch crops work on building up soil fertility and soil structure. The Dunnes are also experimenting with biodynamic supplements and Korean natural growing methods to improve soil biology and inoculate seeds before sowing.

“Every year we go up one level,” says Norman Dunne. “We haven’t used insecticides for three years. Lately we have started inoculating seeds, saving our own seeds, inoculating them with organic seeds and natural products that improve roots. “

The transition has turned poorly performing fields into better performing fields in just a few years. The family also saw a biodiversity boom and the return of a number of bird species to the farm.

“This father-son duo is a wonderful example of farmers who, in recent years, have gradually switched from intensive tillage to regenerative agriculture based on the principles of conservation agriculture,” says Brigid Barry, Farming for Coordinator of Nature.

Norman Dunne recently sat down with Barry for a one-hour Q&A session on the family’s transition to no-till and regenerative farming. Watch a replay of the conversation here.

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Martin Industries has developed, manufactured and sold leading agricultural machinery in the USA and Canada since 1991. Known for Martin Till seed drill attachments, the company has expanded to include a five-stage planting system, locking wheel systems, twisted drag chains, fertilizer openers, and more. Their long-lasting and reliable seed drills enable more and more farmers to sow larger residual quantities.