No Till Notes: It works


I’ve had several no-till producers around the Panhandle comment on how well their fields have taken in the record setting moisture we received during the month of May. On our farm we recorded 10.3 inches of precipitation during the month of May. I have talked to other producers in our neighborhood who recorded up to 1.5 inches more than we did on our farm. According to my moisture totals we received roughly 13.1 inches of precipitation in April and May. Considering our yearly precipitation average is 15.2 inches that is a lot of moisture for our fields to absorb in a short amount of time.

The Natural Resources and Conservation Service has demonstrated the Rainfall Simulator at many of our no-till field days and winter conferences. The simulator demonstrates how beneficial good soil structure and residues covering the soil surface are when it comes to moisture getting into the soil rather than running off the soil surface.

In our no-till fields with the previous crop’s residues on the soil surface plus improved soil structure the no-till fields are able to absorb the large amounts of moisture we have received. The majority of our soils have lower water holding capacities and a good deal of the moisture we received passed through the soil profile and down to depths our crops won’t be able to access. Even with our field’s abilities to absorb the moisture we received at a high rate, eventually some of the moisture does move out of the field or out of the rooting zone where the crops we grow are unable to utilize the moisture.

With all the moisture we have received disease pressure has shown up in some of the winter wheat fields. The cool and wet conditions seem to amplify any diseases that may have been present or moved into our winter wheat fields. One disease that seems prevalent in winter wheat fields has been identified as dwarf yellow barley virus. I’ve driven past winter wheat fields in our area and this disease appears to be most prevalent in fields that were chemical fallowed last summer and drilled to winter wheat last fall.

My guess is the chemical fallowed fields provided the opportunity for this disease outbreak due to the lack of crop rotation. Leaving the previous winter wheat stubble on the soil surface during the summer months and planting winter wheat back into this stubble may have led to the outbreak of the dwarf yellow barley virus.

Another disease of major concern is stripe rust or leaf rust in our winter wheat fields. This disease travels with the wind and there have been significant outbreaks of this disease to our south and east. I had a grower from the Holdrege, Nebraska area call me about field peas last week and he informed me this disease significantly reduced his potential winter wheat yields. Southeast winds are prevalent this time of year in our area. When you consider the weather conditions we’ve had there is a good chance the rust diseases will take hold in our area as well.

On a side note I received a few phone calls earlier this spring concerning cutworms in field pea production. These producers had isolated outbreaks of cutworms in their fields. The common thread in these fields is that the field peas were all planted into proso millet stubble from last year’s proso millet crop.

I visited with Dr. Jeff Bradshaw, entomologist at the UNL Panhandle Research and Extension Center, about the cutworm problem in field peas. Dr. Bradshaw was uncertain as to why the cutworms would be more of a concern in proso millet residue than other crop residues the field peas were planted into. Dr. Bradshaw is looking into this concern and will report to field pea producers any findings or conclusions he may find as he investigates this problem in field pea production.


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