Pine Bluffs Post - Serving all of Eastern Laramie County since 1908

No Till Notes: It's more than no tillage

 


Over the past 40-plus years many producers have moved from a wheat/fallow production system to an ecofallow system, which includes a summer crop, to a continuous no-till crop production system. Each system adds intensity with wheat/fallow having a wheat crop every other year, to ecofallow, with crops grown two out of three years, to a continuous no-till system where a crop is grown every year. As the intensity of these production systems increases the diversity of the crops produced also increases. With a continuous no-till crop production system on dry land acres, we adopt crop rotations similar to the rotations irrigated producers have used over the years.

Producers have moved from a wheat/fallow where the only crop grown is a cool season grass, to ecofallow where there is a cool season grass with the winter wheat, followed by a warm season grass such as corn or proso millet. In a continuous no till crop production system we have a cool season grass with wheat, followed by a warm season grass with corn or proso millet, followed by a cool season legume such as field peas. As you move through the progression of the systems we are adding more crop diversity into the mix of crops we produce.

There are numerous crop combinations that can be used to achieve this added diversity. Each producer chooses their own rotation which fits the needs of their farming operation. Some producers may include forage crops as part of their rotation. A typical rotation including forage may be a winter wheat, corn, oat-pea forage rotation.

No till producers who include forage as part of their rotation are now using even more diverse forage mixtures than the pea-oat forage. Spring forage mixtures that include cool season grass such as oats, with cool season legumes like peas and adding forage turnips, oil seed radishes, and sunflower. These mixtures include cool season grasses and legumes along with the brassicas and warm season broadleaf creating even more diversity in the forage above ground and the soil beneath. These forage crops are then grazed rather than hayed which should add to the soil quality since the forage isn’t removed from the field.

Additional diversity can be added by including warm season forages such as sorghum-sudan, soybeans, forage turnips, oil seed radishes, and sunflower. When we planted this forage mix last summer we even included pearl millet, corn, and edible beans in the mix. We used the warm season forage as a way to clean out the quonset.

An example of adding lots of diversity into the rotation by including the different forages may be a rotation like winter wheat, corn, spring forage, winter wheat, summer forage, field pea, and back to winter wheat. The possibilities of adding diversity are wide ranging and the decision of how much diversity to add is totally up to the individual producer and the needs of their operation.

The use of forages and crops in diverse mixtures may be more in line with what Mother Nature intended when she designed her own mixes with our native prairies. It makes sense to me that as we add diverse crop rotations into our operations we are moving in the direction of improved soil quality. Mother Nature intended for her soil to have diverse plant mixtures growing above so the quality of the soil could be maintained. With our monoculture farming practices and intense tillage we have damaged the soil Mother Nature produced. As we move to more no till crop production practices with improved diversity in the rotations, I have to feel we are headed in a positive direction.

 

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