10 Tips Part 2

10 Tips Part 2


Last week I started off my 10 tips to successful no-till crop production with a discussion on crop rotations. I feel this is the most important consideration on your farm. Designing a crop rotation for your farm will affect your bottom line, weed and disease cycles and your farm's performance well into the future. Take plenty of time each year and assess your rotation and improvements you can make in designing your rotation.

As I mentioned last week designing, a good rotation for our farm has been an ongoing challenge. We've been utilizing a no-till crop production system on our farm for more than 20 years and I'm still tweaking the rotation.

I like our current rotation of winter wheat, corn, and field peas, then back to winter wheat. This rotation has performed well over the past several years, but I'd like to begin implementing a change to this rotation. This rotation has worked well for grain production on our farm, but I think diversifying our rotation with forages for grazing is something we need to try.

Every no-till crop production meeting I've attended over the past several years has stressed the importance of diversity in your farming operation. Adding forages for cattle grazing to our operation will help us increase the diversity of the types of plants that we grow and diversify our marketing opportunities.

As I mentioned last week the dry land corn portion of our crop rotation is the weak link in our current rotation. Dry land corn fails to make profitable grain yields more often than I'd like to admit. I think diversifying our operation by planting forages for grazing would be a positive step forward not only in our soil health benefits but also with our bottom line economically.

I think there is a need for increased forage production in our region. Forages for grazing cattle on our traditional crop acres would be a way for producers to rest their pastures, diversify their rotations, and increase the profitability of their operations. I read in the January 2014 issue of Nebraska Farmer magazine that Nebraska lost 110,000 acres of pastureland to irrigated row crop production from 2007-2012. We can help fill that void by adding forages to our dry land cropping acres.

I've been to no-till winter conferences the past few weeks and have visited with numerous producers who have adopted forages as part of their dry land cropping rotations. These producers have solidified my belief that adding forages is good not only for the soil but also for the profitability of our operation.

I'm convinced that adding forages for grazing will not only diversify our operation by adding the cattle market to our marketing opportunities it will also diversify the types of plants we grow on our farm. Adding these diverse forages will take our soil health to improved levels which will benefit our operation for years to come.

My second tip for no-till crop production is to really focus on doing everything you can to produce a good winter wheat crop in your rotation. Winter wheat has long been the predominant crop in our dry land cropping systems because winter wheat performs well in our growing environment.

I think winter wheat is crucial to no-till crop production systems in our region because winter wheat gives us the opportunity to produce a consistent amount of high residue which is spread evenly across our fields. The high residue that a good crop of winter wheat produces really sets up the rest of the rotation for success. It's difficult to produce a high yielding crop rotation without the benefits the winter wheat residue provides to the rotation.

My third tip is to use a stripper head to manage these winter wheat residues. Using a stripper head leaves the winter wheat residue standing which has many benefits. The standing winter wheat residue catches more snow during the winter months and leaving it standing above the soil surface also makes the residue last longer into the next growing season. Residue on the soil surface breaks down faster due to soil microbial activity. With the stripper head I'm also not relying on the combine to distribute the residues evenly after they have been cut with a more conventional head.

I'll look at more tips for no-till cropping systems in next week's article.