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Scrutinize no-till plant stands

This fifth article in the Tough No-till Q&A series tackles evaluating no-till crop stands. Russell McLucas, Pennsylvania No-Till Alliance board member, and Del Voight, Penn State University Extension grain crop specialist, address concerns and the secrets to high-yielding stands.

Duo’s goal: more no-till corn acres

Indiana’s conservation partners have teamed up again. They’re rekindling the effort to increase no-till corn acres in Indiana. This time they’ve enlisted not one but two seasoned conservation veterans. Hans Kok and Dan Towery are coordinators of Indiana’s new Conservation Cropping Systems Initiative.

Read before going to the field!

Remember the camera commercials at Christmas that show packages with the tag “Open me first”? The tag on this story could be “Read me before you plant.”

No-tillers offer cover crop tips

Eventually, bare ground in a farm field will be a rare sight, predicts Steve Groff, a cover crop researcher and no-till farmer from Holtwood, Pa. As farmers become aware of the benefits of using cover crops, more of them are protecting and improving their soil with cover crops, he explains. “The trend is upward, so you’ll probably be doing it one day or another, one decade or another.”

No-till soybeans this spring

Farmers attending Iowa State University’s Crop Advantage meetings around the state this winter harvested information on a number of topics. One was no-till soybeans; why more farmers should be switching to no-till beans. No-till corn can have more complications. Success comes easier with no-till beans, and they save time and money — two things farmers will run short of this spring.

Study looks at how tillage impacts soil

Soil scientists with USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service are currently working on a project that will help farmers understand how tillage methods impact soil quality.

No-till soil without ruts can still suffer from compaction

One advantage no-tillers have championed for years is that they can get on no-till fields to combine without making ruts long before neighbors in conventional tillage can run. Sometimes there’s a day’s difference after a heavy rain. As it turns out, that’s a mixed blessing.

New information sheets from ILF

The Iowa Learning Farm has recently created a series of information sheets addressing soil and water quality topics. There are four handouts titled “Iowa Watersheds,” “Transition to No-till,” “Water Quality and Conservation Practices” and “Economics of Residue.”

Wildlife champs

Providing for and protecting Martin County wildlife has always been a goal of five longtime hunting friends. In fact, they believed in helping local wildlife so much that they became business partners, bought land and applied numerous conservation practices on it.

What does your district offer ‘For Rent’?

If you read about a new practice, don’t assume you can’t try it just because you don’t want to invest a lot of money up front. Trying a new practice may be as easy as visiting your local soil and water conservation district. Many rent out conservation-related items, especially new technology, at reasonable prices so that people can try the practice.

Go beyond no-till to improve soil

When Bryan Jorgensen turns his family’s agricultural enterprise, Jorgensen Land and Cattle, over to the next generation, he wants the fields he now manages to be in better condition and more productive than when they started raising crops there in the early 1900s.

Building soils for better crops

Cronin Farms, Gettysburg, S.D., is making some big gains in soil organic matter. It’s risen from 2% soil organic matter to 4% organic matter in recent years — which is worth about $1,100 per acre by some estimates.

Putting seed in the slot

The first commercial Cross Slot no-till air seeder made its debut in North Dakota this spring.

Converting CRP to crops? Start in the fall

When Gerald Curry of Ponca purchased a quarter section of Conservation Reserve Program land, he had two options. With only one year remaining in the CRP contract, he could have tried to bid the ground back into the program during the next sign-up, if rental rates were agreeable.

Erosion control

Spring rains can come hard and fast. Fields at this time are most vulnerable to soil erosion, as they often lack enough crop residue after planting and the crop canopy isn’t yet present to protect soil from the impact of driving raindrops.

No-till can work

An Iowa Learning Farms partner, John Kielkopf, grows corn and soybeans near Hedrick in Keokuk County. His dad, Ron Kielkopf, started no-till on their southeast Iowa farm in the early 1990s when no-till drills were introduced. John and his dad believe their no-till system does less damage to soil structure compared to a full-width tillage system, and long-term no-till has improved their fields’ water infiltration.

Ones to watch

Mitch and Andy Hoenhause, Lisbon, N.D., are doing some things on their farm that might be worth watching.

No more ‘formula farming’

Andy and Mitch Hoenhause’s success with cover crops has encouraged the Lisbon, N.D., brothers to try some new ways to get the cover crops planted on more of their acres.

No-till works in long run

Iowa Learning Farms partner Bill Hammitt grows corn and soybeans near Portsmouth in Harrison County. The western Iowa farmer started no-till planting corn in 1982, and in 1990 he built his first no-till, split-row soybean planter. He’s convinced long-term no-till has improved his soil structure and water infiltration.

No-tiller rotates around grain sorghum

Oklahoma’s grain sorghum production has increased in recent years, placing the state in the No. 3 spot behind Kansas and Texas. Although northern Oklahoma counties have enjoyed a lot of success with the crop, growth remains stagnant in the southwestern corner of the state, mostly due to cotton production and a hotter summer climate.

Vertical tillage is not no-till

Iowa conservationists with USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service are disturbed by the number of row crop farmers using vertical-tillage tools. Vertical tillage often leaves the soil covered with crop residue, but it is not the same as true no-till.

What lies beyond no-till? Sustainable?

No-till has matured. It is no longer the hottest, most cutting-edge, new thing. So what is?

Organic matter key to soil health

The most productive soils overwhelmingly have features in common; certain physical, chemical and biological properties that allow them to function well and produce abundant biomass.

Organic matter key to soil health and no-till is best way to keep it in

In the decades since the advent of no-till farming practices, much has been learned about the life and health of the soil, and the enormous value of organic matter in the soil.

No-till crops survive summer heat and drought

The benefits of no-till farming and management for soil health were on full display Sept. 5, when the South Central Kansas Residue Alliance made its annual summer crop tour of eight fields in Harper County to see firsthand how they fared at the end of a second blistering-hot, dry summer.

No-till crops survive summer heat and drought (Part II)

For Harper County farmer Robert Sharp, there’s no such thing as too much residue.

Tom Harris: an innovator or a mad scientist?

The first time you meet Tom Harris, he just seems like your average farmer — a down-to-earth, seasoned veteran of up times and down, and always on the lookout to improve his results.

CRP conversion

Glenn Bauer, Regan, N.D., has had good luck using cover crops to convert Conservation Reserve Program acres to cropland. Yields have been good, and costs have been low, he says.

Cover crop know-how

Cover crop research is gaining ground in the Northern Plains. North Dakota State University is conducting several studies.

Eye on 100

Roger Baumfalk, Avon, S.D., is shooting to produce 100-bushel-per-acre soybeans.

Green ’n’ growing

A diverse mix of small grains and cover crops helps spring come a
little earlier on the Arnaud family farm near Monett. In fact, there’s something green and growing on just about every acre that Jim Arnaud farms, just about every month of the year.

Trees sprout up as pests in no-till fields

No-till farming has numerous benefits, but one issue that comes with the practice is trees sprouting up in fields next to corn and soybeans.

New Subsurfer incorporates dry manure

Is it the next-generation manure applicator, or is it limited to only poultry litter?

Tool turns heads

Ireland Brothers, Martin, S.D., is making the most of no-till by using stripper heads on its combines.

Stripper head pros and cons

Dwayne Beck, South Dakota State University plant science professor and manager of the Dakota Lakes Research Farm, Pierre, S.D., probably has more research experience with combine stripper headers than almost anyone in the country. Beck recently responded to questions about his experience.

Make conservation system work

What went right? What went wrong? Those are two questions to think about as you evaluate your corn and soybean crops growing in the field after this planting season. How the crop plants are performing, especially if something is going wrong, is often blamed on the type of tillage system being used.

For dryland crops, maximize ‘free’ water

Because of the heat, frequent dry spells, low-humidity and high-evaporation conditions in northwest Kansas and southwest Nebraska, farmers like Dietrich Kastens need to harvest as much “free” water as possible. At Kastens Farms in Herndon, Kan., where only 21.5 inches of rain fall annually, everything is about effective use of precipitation in this predominately dryland operation.

Planter tune-up is a ‘must-do-now’

In this third Q&A series article, Russell McLucas, Pennsylvania No-Till Alliance board member, and Del Voight, Penn State Extension grain crop specialist, address planter and drill maintenance issues.

Soybeans deserve early planting, too

John Zupancic bought a 16-row corn planter for 2010. But he didn’t buy row splitters. That was a planned decision, not a mistake.

Cover-up grows in popularity

Seeding cover crops to enhance basic rotations is a new frontier in Nebraska cropping systems, according to its adherents. Interest has grown in the past few years in trying seedings of one or two cover crops or a cocktail blend of several after wheat harvest in summer or even after taking off soybeans or corn in the fall. As yet, acreage remains limited.

Whack these fall weeds now

This final 2010 Q&A series article targets what David Mortensen, a Penn State weed scientist, told members of a U.S. House Oversight Committee this summer was a weed resistance problem so serious that new strategies are needed to combat it. In fact, Mortensen proposed restrictions on use of herbicide-tolerant crops and a tax on biotech seeds to fund research and educational programs for farmers.

No-till shines

It’s not too wet or too cool in eastern North Dakota to no-till, says Tim Haakenson.

No-till delivers with ‘right stuff’

It takes the right crops, rotation and equipment to make no-till work in the wet, cool conditions in eastern North Dakota, says Tim Haakenson, Aneta, N.D.