Filed under: Farm, fertilizer, science, tillage | Tags: diesel, farm, no-till, strip till, tillage
For many years now I have been cutting back on tillage. My reasons go back to the things I learned way back in the 1970′s when I was in college. In the years of cheap fuel, the reduce tillage mantra was largely ignored. Fuel was cheep and previous practice was easy to continue. Now as fuel prices, especially for diesel fuel, increase, all farmers need to step back and consider if all of that tillage is needed. Below is an article gleaned from Purdue University.
Consider the Costs before Tilling
By Lisa Schluttenhofer, Purdue University
“Full tillage and subsequent soil loss can quickly lead to negative implications for your land’s long-term productivity,” Vyn said.
In the comments on this article was a comment that seemed to equate less tillage with more use of chemicals. I have found the opposite to be true. We are now using fewer chemicals to control weeds than we did before we reduced tillage. Back when fuel and chemicals were cheep we would spray a field just to keep down the weeds. Now with rising fuel prices, and the cost of chemicals that are derived from or use a lot of energy to produce, we are taking a closer look at if we really do need that extra pass. If you want to make a profit when margins are thin, you have to keep all of your costs down.
Filed under: Farm, fertilizer, harvest, Minnesota, planting, science, tillage, weather | Tags: farm, harvest, machines, Minnesota, Planting, rain, tillage, weather, Weed control
In my opinion some farmers spend too much time working their soil, and it shows.
With this early harvest and dry weather I’ve been seeing many of my neighbors out doing extra tillage. My word to them is DON”T DO IT. Autumn in Minnesota can be chancy,we can get late harvests with minimal time to till the ground after harvest, and we can have plenty of extra days like this year. When there is extra time some farm folks seem to think they need to work their fields again, and again, and again. Over working is not good for your soil, even when it is dry.
The hard chunks in the field will go away. All we need is some rain and the normal freeze thaw cycle we get so much of here. Why spend the extra time, fuel and machinery wear when you can let nature do the work for you. Every trip across the field buries and breaks up more of the plant material that is left on the surface. Plant material that is needed to protect our soil from wind and rain. Plant material that both helps to hold moisture in the ground during dry years and aids in water infiltration in wet years.
Although I have not abandoned tillage completely, I have cut back on how much tillage I do compared to what I used to do. Tillage is cut back to the minimum needed to get fertilizer and manure into the soil in the fall, and the seed bed smoothed out in the spring. Costs in machinery and fuel use have been reduced to minimal levels needed to grow the crop and keep the weeds down. The payoff has been in better soil condition and less erosion. Crop yields have not suffered, weed control is easier, it’s a win, win condition.
A few years ago I talked to a neighbor who installs field drainage. He commented that he could see we had switched to less tillage. He could see by the way our ground looked down below the normal tillage area that our soil was doing better. There was less compaction and more and deeper root growth than in fields that were still being tilled “conventionally.” In other words, our soil was healthier.
Even back in the 70′s when I was in college, we were talking about the need for less tillage to reduce erosion and improve soil health. The problem is that it is hard to change your ways when what you are doing seems to be working. Those that switch to the lower impact methods rarely switch back if they give it a real try. It can take many years to see the impact of less tillage. This is not a change your tillage today and see the results tomorrow kind of thing.
It has taken me a while to get to where I am today, but I would not go back. The reduction in wear and tear on the machinery, the reduction of fuel needs and the better soil health have made me a believer. No more recreational tillage for me.
Filed under: Corn, Fall, Farm, fertilizer, Minnesota, tillage, Uncategorized | Tags: Corn, farm, grandchildren, machines, Minnesota, tillage, weather, Weed control
The harvest may be done, but there is plenty more to do.
I’ve been spending most of my days lately in this rig. The tractor is a JD 4650 rated at about 180 horse power. It’s pulling a 14 foot Wishek deep tillage disk. With the dry conditions it has been turning over some really hard chunks of earth. The last two years were wetter and did not allow me to till as deep as I would like to. Now with drier conditions we’re sinking the Wishek in and really doing a good job.
On the left you see the corn stalks before they are disked, and on the right is the after. I like the Wishek because it can go through the standing stalks without any other preparation. It leaves a good amount of plant material on or near the surface to help control erosion without leaving too smooth of a surface. The rough surface creates ponding areas to hold water on the surface and let it go into the soil not run off. The old plant material and rough surface will also help keep down wind erosion. I have one field that I only worked part of the field. Those areas that were too steep or too sandy I left untouched. That will protect them during the harsh winds of winter.
This field will be corn again next year so we broadcast most of the fertilizer next years crop will need and work that into the top 8 inches of soil profile. Next spring we’ll smooth this off a bit and plant it. I like to keep at least 30% cover after planting to reduce erosion and promote water infiltration.
I also spent some time burning off the grass in a road ditch that is too steep to mow. Burning removes the stems that could catch winter snow and keep it on the road. It also helps to keep down weeds that are unwanted. Burning tends to promote the growth of grasses over things like trees and broad leaf plants. It also allowed me to spend some time reshaping part of the ditch so that I can get my mower down into it.
I also want to spend some time with these two young ladies. Being a grandfather is such hard work you know.
Filed under: Corn, Farm, fertilizer, grain storage, harvest, Minnesota, rain, tillage | Tags: auger, Corn, farm, graincart, harvest, machines, rain, striptill, tillage, weather
We finished work tonight under a very bright harvest moon. Full moon will be Wed. the 12th. It was really easy to walk out in the field it was so bright.
We did get a little rain today, but it did not slow us down much. We took a break for lunch and when the rain quit, we were back at it.
Another day of harvest, another bin full. We’ve moved over to my place to harvest the corn there. I don’t have much storage here so most of it will be trucked to my dad’s place. Since the corn is so dry we are putting it right into the bin. The process goes something like this.
The ears of corn are stripped from the stalks and processed inside our IH 2166. The kernels of corn are separated from the cob and husk. The cob and husk go out the back to become mulch for next years crop, the kernels go into the hopper for later transport.
The corn is transferred to the grain cart where it is moved to the next step. Since the grain cart is pulled through the field with a tractor, it can go places that a truck has trouble. In this dry year, we just use it to speed up harvest. The combine never stops. It harvests and unloads at the same time. The tractor and grain cart take the corn to a waiting truck or wagon.
Since we are so close to the field, we just park a gravity wagon by the auger in the yard and dump into that. This only works with fields near the bins. It really speeds up harvest. The gravity wagon meters the corn out into the auger while the driver heads out to get another load. When he gets back the load is already in the bin. In this case we are putting the corn into a Harvestor silo that has been converted for dry corn storage.
Here’s the view of the process from the top of the silo. We only have one auger that can make it to the top of the silo. It has to be extended to its full height to make it.
You can see the field we are harvesting from the top of the silo. It’s just the other side of those trees. In this picture the field is about half done.
I’ve been really pleased with the yield on this field. It beats the next best field harvested so far by 20 bushels. The fact that this field has no sandy spots and no spots where water could sit did help it out. It is also a field that was soybeans last year, so we used a planting and fertilizing method called strip till. In strip till you put most of the fertilizer in a narrow band under where you plan to plant the corn crop. The rest of the field is left undisturbed. That means that all of the plant material from the last crop is on top of the soil to protect it from rain, wind and heat. We did harvest part of another strip till field but that has sandy soil in several places. It also had some wet spots that didn’t dry well.
Well, it’s getting late. Early alarm clock tomorrow again. Best get some sleep.
Filed under: Farm, Minnesota, tillage | Tags: antique, farm, Minnesota, old iron, old tractors, plow, plowing, tillage, tractor, tractors
Jane asked, “They look great, don’t they? And for crying out loud, tell us non-farmers why aren’t they used anymore.” My answer:
Not only have tractors gotten better, but the implements they pull have gotten better.
When the pioneers came to the plains they brought the plow and used it to turn over the sod so that they could plant food crops that people could eat. But the soil of the plains could not take being without plant cover and much soil washed or blew away,think dust bowl. Although some farmers still plow, they are becoming fewer as we learn ways to keep the plant material from previous crops in place and still plant a crop. Modern chemicals, many of them nature based, keep the weeds at bay while allowing a new crop to grow and help keep the soil in place.
Today, because of the better jobs in the city, there are fewer farmers left to till the soil, and we must farm ever increasing acres as more and more rural young people move to city jobs. The tiny tractors of the past cannot hope to keep up with the acres we must cover to feed the world. We still love to see them in operation, but they are tools of the past as much as the abacus and the slide-rule.
Filed under: Farm, history, Minnesota, tillage | Tags: farm, Minnesota, old iron, old tractors, plow, plowing, tillage, tractor, tractors
Labor day afternoon, 2011, old iron enthusiasts gathered near Delft, Minnesota to show off what their old iron could do. At one time there were 26 tractors totaling 67 bottoms, plowing the wheat field near U.S. Highway 71.
There were tractors of many brands turning over the earth in the wonderful late summer weather.
Trucks, trailers, cars and people were everywhere. It looked like a farm sale was on. Traffic on the highway slowed for folks to see the old iron at work.
My dad hooked the old Cockshutt onto an old 3 bottom to try it out.
There were two tractors on steel wheels plowing.
The biggest tractor there was a 3020 Deere.
Most of the tractors had been rebuilt and painted, but a few were unrestored.
When you lined them all up nose to tail the line was over a quarter of a mile long. They would plow a swath almost 90 feet wide when they all made a pass.
It was a fun day to talk old iron and remember why we don’t plow with these old tractors anymore.
Here’s a few more pictures of the day.
Old iron, gotta love it!