2017 No-till wheat after corn

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2017 No-till wheat after corn

Post by Bio Farmer on Tue Mar 28, 2017 10:00 pm

Well, I jumped in and took a bit of a risk on this year's wheat crop by trying to no-till it after my combine corn. So a bit of field history: I decided to try this technique on 65 acres of winter wheat (80% of our crop). Both fields had basically the same history. In the fall of 2015 they came out of their previous crops and had our normal tillage program (offset disk, ripper, offset disk, bedder). Then in the spring of 2016, we knocked the beds and planted field corn. Both fields were combined around the 7th of October, 2016 then drilled to wheat around the 20th of October. The only major difference between the fields is one is under a sprinkler and the other is gravity irrigated.

We rented the drill from the Ada County Soil and Water Conservation District (please visit https://adaswcd.org/ for rental information) and a scheduling delay caused the 2 week span between harvest and seeding. Despite the deviation from our plan we hitched up and went to work. We seeded around 150 lbs of wheat per acre instead of our normal 125 lbs to try and compensate for seeds landing in unfavorable conditions (in residue). At first, we tried pulling the drill with our 120 hp 2wd tractor, which had enough power but lacked traction in the loose, moist fields. After the first 20 acres with some major wheel slippage, we changed ideas and put our 225 hp track machine (JD 8400T) on the job. We should have done that in the first place; a track tractor and a no-till drill are a magnificent combination to improve compaction and traction.

Never having seen one of these drill work in person had me extremely nervous as we began this project. Within the first acre my fears had vanished, I was smiling ear to ear, and I was claiming victory. The design of this drill is clearly suited to the task and far different than anything in my 40 year old lineup. The disks had no trouble penetrating the residue thanks to hydraulic down-pressure generated from the drills massive construction. Even on the ends where the combine and trucks had packed it down substantially we were able to slice through stalks and get our seed into 1" of soil. I can see using a drill like this in many of my future plans. One detail that probably hurt us on this project was our soil was too soft on the edge of the beds to let the drill cut everywhere; a firmer seedbed would probably give the drill a better surface to cut against.



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Spring Update

Post by Bio Farmer on Tue May 16, 2017 10:15 pm

There wasn't much growth on the wheat before winter set in - if you looked carefully in November there were green shoots popping out of the soil but that was about all. With the record snow we had, I was very nervous about what may remain come spring. Much to my relief, the wheat looks pretty good when I stop and walk around. Driving by on the road, the field looks like a disaster since the wheat is still largely hidden by the corn residue. I am still optimistic on the potential for these fields.

The photo shows the gravity-irrigated field and spring is setting in. So far, the most prevalent question I am bombarded with is "how do you plan to clean the corrugates to run water." The short answer is that I really don't know yet. In part, I am hoping the soil microbes will help break down some of that residue to make life easier. Also, unlike a tilled field where all the residue is loose and able to float with the water, I anticipate this residue will be held in place by it's attachment to the corn stalks and by the wheat plants. However, given these two bonuses to our plan, I am still envisioning some type of corrugator with coulters mounted ahead.


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