Home Farm Equipment Producers grow no-till alfalfa, revert to temporary tillage

Producers grow no-till alfalfa, revert to temporary tillage


On a scorching, September afternoon in Sentinel, Okla., father and son Terry and Wes Farris catch a reprieve as they collect across the kitchen desk in Terry’s childhood residence. Their dialogue, typically sarcastic and generally contradictory, generates laughter and a way that although companions and household, they’ve their very own concepts.

Terry admits he typically says issues he should not. Wes confesses that although they farm collectively, they socialize individually. “I do my own thing, and he does his,” Wes says. “We’ve got to, to be around each other every day.”

Farris household farm, Sentinel, Okla. (Photograph by Shelley E. Huguley)

Collectively, the daddy and son duo produce 600 acres of cotton, 1,750 acres of wheat and 240 acres of alfalfa, together with some milo, and all no-till. This 12 months’s alfalfa crop was good up till the final reducing. “The first four cuttings were probably the best we’ve ever made, weren’t they?” Wes says, his dad.

“It’s the best quantity but not quality because it dewed and rained,” Terry responds.

“It put us behind,” Wes provides.

“It would rain when we were fixing to cut, and then it would be put off for a week or two,” Terry says.

The Farris’s minimize alfalfa each 26 days with the objective of creating six complete.

“That keeps the relative food value up,” Wes says, which is an index the dairies make the most of. “We sell our good alfalfa to the dairies. If it gets a little shower on it, we’ll roll it up and put it in the bar ditch somewhere and feed it to the cows in the winter. Even though it gets a little shower, the dairies will run away from it, which I understand– they’re trying to make money just like we are.”

“No, they’re just trying to buy it as cheap as they can,” Terry counters. “We can feed it if it gets too cheap.”

“We can feed it and cut back on our cake bill, I think,” Wes provides. “But sometimes he wants to argue with me on it.”

marlie-farris-sentinel-farm-livestock.jpgWes Farris and his father Terry increase all-natural, antibiotic and hormone-free mama cows on their Sentinel, Okla., farm. The cattle are bought to a close-by feed yard after which bought to Entire Meals. (Photograph by Marlie Farris)


This 12 months, the Farris’s harvested better-than-average wheat — 48 bushels to the acre. “Typically, we average about 30 to 35 bushels,” Wes says. “Used to we thought we were doing a good job with that, but not anymore.”

“Now we have to make 40 to 45 bushels,” Terry says. “It takes the high 30s and low 40s just to break even with fertilizer prices.”


The Farris’s make the most of crop rotation and no-till to lower inputs whereas growing manufacturing. “We were all no-till up until this year,” Wes says.

As for what modified, Wes factors to the sharp enhance in chemical costs, “and then the chemicals that you spend a small fortune on don’t work. You can go out there and spray Round Up and it might kill some Bermuda grass or some volunteer wheat but it’s not going to kill Mares Tail and pigweed—the stuff you need it to kill.”

Terry and Wes have been no-tilling since 2003 after they bought their first air seeder. “We fought the no-till for two or three years, not wanting to do it. We were diehard (conventional) farmers,” Terry admits.

“We thought the only way was to plow it to death, but I don’t believe that anymore,” Wes says. “We’ve no-tilled long enough that our ground’s getting rough. We’re going to plow everything at least one time eventually.”

The plan is to plow 500 acres annually, after which, “it’s all going back into no-till. We’re not going to keep plowing,” Wes says. “We’re not giving up on no-till.”

“Part of it is the ground needed some work, too,” Terry provides. “We’ve no-tilled it for so long that we’ve got badger holes and washes. Even though we leave a good cover on it, you just can’t avoid some of that. When you get a 10-inch rain in a couple of days, no-till doesn’t even handle that very well.”


Wes serves on the board of administrators for Western Planters, a cotton gin in Hobart. He says no-till is the one method to grow cotton in his space.

swfp-shelley-huguley-farris-farm-okla-9.jpgBolls are starting to pop open on the Farris farm. (Photograph by Shelley E. Huguley)

“I don’t care what anybody says, that’s the only way to make cotton in this part of the country is to plant it in wheat straw, not plowed ground. There’s places out here that the cotton completely burned up because they planted it on bare ground.”

The Farris’s run a stripper header on their mix. “You don’t cut the straw off and that’s what we plant into,” Wes says. “I love it. When you plant in that straw, that little cotton comes up and it’s kind of protected. It gives it a head start.”

The Farris’s increase all-natural, antibiotic and hormone-free mama cows that are bought to a close-by feed yard, Premium Beef, and in flip bought to Entire Meals. The Farris’s make the most of their winter wheat to graze the cattle however wanted a rotation to cut back weed stress. For the final six years, cotton’s been a very good match.

“It’s helped tremendously,” Wes says.


Terry and Wes additionally no-till alfalfa, which is usually a “no-no,” Terry says.

“One year, I don’t know how it worked out, but right across the creek down here, we no-tilled alfalfa in stripper straw. The ground was still smooth,” Wes says. “It was the most effective alfalfa stand we have ever had, however you have obtained to suppose, it is an ideal seedbed, the bottom is settled, there isn’t any unfastened filth to roll excessive of the seed, you simply go down there and conceal it from the birds.

“And that alfalfa actually came up because we had enough moisture. Normally, we dust in alfalfa — you barely put it in the ground because it doesn’t have any push.”

“And that’s after you’ve worked that same piece of ground five or six times with hares and packers to get the kind of seedbed he’s getting with leaving stubble,” Terry provides.

No-tilling alfalfa can be not possible with out an air seeder, Terry says. “That’s our go-to tool,” Wes provides. “The savings aren’t in yield; it’s in input costs.” Terry agrees.


No-till alfalfa on the Farris farm. (Photograph by Marlie Farris)

Wes says making ready alfalfa floor utilizing typical tillage requires about six journeys utilizing the chisel plow, and dragging a set of hares over it two or 3 times, typically adopted by a land leveler. “And that costs money, a lot of money. We hit a home run that year we planted alfalfa in that stubble.”

“We’ve done it two or three times and haven’t failed to get a good stand,” Terry says. “And when I say good, I mean good. We don’t do halfway stands.”

“No,” agrees Wes, “because they don’t make any money.”

The Farris’s plant alfalfa shallow sufficient that it emerges and is rising with no less than three or 4 first leaves earlier than the primary freeze.

“That time frame gives you enough time to get some fall rains and get it up and going where it will survive the winter. We put down a preemerge to control weeds,” Wes provides.

This 12 months, on the suggestion of their longtime crop advisor Parker Christian, a preemerge, flumioxazin, will probably be utilized in mid-September for weed management. “We used to spray a chemical called Velpar Alfamax in late January. It was like $20 an acre. This shot will only be $4 per acre and hopefully do the same thing,” Wes says.


As father and son put together for the months forward, they, like many producers, are involved concerning the provide shortages together with rising gas and chemical prices. “Input costs more than anything,” Wes says.

Terry says elements and tools. “We lost a hay rake the other day and we can’t find a replacement anywhere. I’ve called and looked around. Of course, we’re a bit picky about what we buy but still, we can’t get anything.”

Although instances are unsure and farming tougher, Wes is assured, it doesn’t matter what, there’s at all times going to be a necessity for cotton garments and bread to eat. “People still have to eat. There will always be a need for a farmer.”




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