On a recent Monday, it rained an inch and a half at William Kelley's farm. By the following Wednesday, under overcast skies, he cranked the tractor and demonstrated several reduced-tillage implements for a large group of farmers.

Monsanto no-till guru John Bradley was walking around Kelley's untilled fields with a soil penetrometer, checking the depth of the hardpan.

“What we're concerned about is the clay pan — 10 to 12 inches down,” Bradley says. The tool measures compaction of the hardpan. “In reduced tillage, you use Para-till or shanks to fracture that hardpan.

“To me, you need to find out where the hardpan is, find out how much good you're going to do and then decide what implement to use,” Bradley says.

For Kelley, he's glad he made the choice. He's cut out $40 per acre with reduced trips across the field and hasn't had to sacrifice yields.

And should it rain, he doesn't have to fret about whether the fields are going to dry out in time for him to get his soybeans planted on time.

“A field under conventional-tillage would take three to four days to dry out before you could get back in,” Kelley says. “With no-till and strip till, one day of drying and you could be back in there.”