Home Farm Equipment Grower panel discusses tillage, cover crops

Grower panel discusses tillage, cover crops

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Three Texas producers confess it is taken numerous failure combined with success to make diminished tillage and/or cover crops a profitable administration system on their farms.

Martin County producer Josh Tunnell not too long ago joined Swisher County farmer Barry Evans and Hale County producer Steve Olson in a grower panel on the Texas Alliance for Water Conservation Subject Day. The three mentioned the usage of conservation tillage of their dryland and irrigated fields.

All of them agreed, it is not a one-size suits all system.

Barry Evans, Swisher County

Evans transformed to no-till 25 years in the past. Initially, a part of his motivation was to scale back wind injury to his crops. However a better concern for him was the moisture misplaced each time he ran a plow. And in an space with restricted rainfall and a nonreplenishing aquifer, that is not one thing he might afford to lose.

“Several years ago, after I drilled a couple of wells, they both pumped about 60 gallons per minute. I thought, those wells will never ever be any better than they are today. In about 5 years, they’re going to be about 30 gallons per minute and in about 10 years, I’m going to be out.”

Barry Evans rotates no-till, cotton and grain sorghum. He says following grain sorghum with cotton makes his cotton higher. (Photograph by Shelley E. Huguley)

He determined then to give up chasing the water. “I needed to get by with what I had.” However he additionally knew it will be essential to farm with out it, “because in the future, we’re all going to be dryland farmers,” he mentioned.

Evans, together with Olson, irrigate out of the Ogallala Aquifer.  “When I pump an acre inch of water now, it’s gone. It’s never coming back,” he mentioned. “If I waste money, I can go out and make some more money, but if I pump that water out, it’s gone.”

He started to ask himself, “How can I get the most dollars per acre inch out of that water?” He facilities his considering on {dollars} per acre inch of revenue. “That’s one reason I don’t chase big yields. There’s your theory of diminishing returns and there’s a point where you start putting out more water and less dollars or pounds, however you want to figure it, per acre inch.”

Crop rotation is vital to his manufacturing plan. For the final 25 years, he is rotated cotton and grain sorghum. “I do my irrigated and dryland just alike. I don’t try to change anything up because I know that it’s all going to be dryland before for long.” A wheat-cotton rotation has additionally labored properly, he added.

One query he’s typically requested is that if cotton makes probably the most cash, why develop grain sorghum or wheat? As a result of it makes his cotton higher, he mentioned.

“If you can increase your cotton yields consistently and if you’re lucky, you can get a 15% to 20% increase over time on the rotation, you’ll actually net more dollars. You won’t gross more dollars, but you’ll net more money and to be sustainable, that’s a part of the deal, too.”

Cover crops stay some extent of rivalry for him. “I’ve played with them, but I have not figured it out. I’ve seen some of the data that says we replenish our moisture with a cover crop, and that might be true, but I have not been able to make it work. I’m still trying.”

Steve Olson, Hale County

In Hale County, Olson, who admitted he is in all probability failed greater than anyone within the room, went from standard tillage to no-till solely to return to tillage. “We struggled with weed control because our soil wasn’t ready for no-till,” he mentioned.

Then he discovered about strip-till. “I visited with our native Orthman seller on the time and instructed him I needed a type of planters. He mentioned, ‘That will not work right here. Our soils simply aren’t proper for it.’ So, I went to the Oklahoma Panhandle and purchased a two-year-old strip-till machine and low-and-behold it did work.

swfp-shelley-huguley-olson-sunflower.jpgCrop rotation, together with these sunflowers, is a giant a part of Steve Olson’s manufacturing administration system. (Photograph by Shelley E. Huguley)

“What we found later was if we would go in and put our fertilizer at two different depths, probably 70% down low, usually about 8 inches, 30% about 4 inches above that, as those roots hit it, the roots will get exactly what they need and be incredibly prolific. If you’ll take care of what’s below the ground, it will take care of what’s above the ground,” he mentioned.

Olson soil probes each discipline. “If we feel like we’re ok not to plow, we don’t plow.” This 12 months he no-tilled about 60% of his acres.

One factor that bothers Olson is how non secular individuals might be about tillage practices. “They feel like if you do plow, you’re destroying the soil. My message is be smart about what you do and don’t let yourself get backed into a corner that makes you make decisions that aren’t really good for your land.”

Crop rotation can be instrumental. This 12 months he is planted seed milo, common milo, sunflowers, corn and wheat. He mentioned the extra species he rotates, the higher and it is not a one-year deal, he added. “If you get your soil healthy and ready for the cotton stalk, then the cotton is able to kind of get on cruise control and roll through, and that’s where it starts to pay off.”

Josh Tunnell, Martin County

Tunnell farms 6,000 acres together with his father close to Stanton. All however 250 of their acres are dryland. “We’ve been playing with the cover crops and some different rotations for probably the last eight or 10 years,” Tunnell mentioned. “I’ve failed at it way more often than I’ve succeeded.”

Tunnell mentioned there are various younger growers, together with himself, attempting them this 12 months. “Some of it looks really good and there’s other parts of it that there’s no doubt it’s a fail. In the past six years, I’ve had two years where my strip-till actually made a cotton crop.”

He mentioned many producers see cover crops as an antidote to sand preventing. “Nicely, that is a beautiful factor if you may get your cover crop established in time and get it killed the place it has sufficient cover to the place it holds the soil.

“We’re discovering it’s not a fit for every acre, but it does have its place.”

josh-tunnell-skip-row-dryland.jpgSkip-row, dryland cotton on Josh Tunnell’s farm. This discipline was conventionally tilled.The drought prevented Tunnell from establishing a cover. (Photograph by Josh Tunnell)

Tunnell primarily vegetation small grains for cover. “I’ve used triticale and wheat. We’re still tweaking our operation and what we’ve discovered works better than trying to plant a small grain in the winter and then turn around and plant cotton behind it is to do more of a rotation.”

This 12 months, he is planting about third of his acres into small grains. “We’ve tried to take small grains on dryland area to harvest for the grain but it’s hard to make that pencil out. But we’re going to try to just hay that wheat next spring. And then I may leave a lot of those acres fallow until the next spring and plant cotton, where I’m not trying to grow two crops on all my winter moisture.”

Earlier than planting a cover crop, Tunnell warned producers to pay attention to residual herbicide exercise. “One of the big things with trying to plant wheat in late fall, a lot of the things you utilize in cotton production can be detrimental to establishing the cover crop in the fall if there’s any residual in the soil. You have to pay attention to what you’re using and what those effects will be.”

Tunnell farms in sandy loam and deep sand soils. To forestall and deal with weeds in his cotton, he makes use of Caparol or different residuals. “With resistant weeds, we have gone again to utilizing extra of these chemical compounds that they’d inform you to steer clear of in sandier soils. We have performed with the charges sufficient that we discovered some utilization for both banding these chemical compounds or ready till your cotton will get up the place you’ll be able to plan it and spray beneath the crop that can enable it to work.

josh-tunnell-irrigated-wheat-cover.jpgJosh Tunnell’s irrigated cotton planted into wheat cover. (Photograph by Josh Tunnell)

“If you do it early enough in the year, we’ve figured out that even though our rainfall is somewhere between 13 and 16 inches, we still get enough that those will dissipate fast enough that you can late-fall plant some kind of cover and still get a good stand established.”

Tunnell advises growers to first make a plan after which go to with different producers who’ve tried cover crops. “That’s where I’ve gotten the vast majority of my information and from talking to our NRCS office, finding those producers who can say, ‘We’ve tried this, and this is what we’ve run into.’ It might keep you from making the same mistakes we did.”

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