Along the Fencerow

ORIGINALLY WRITTEN BRADLEY GOERING
I remember the early 1980s, when the summers were hot and dry and interest rates were extremely high. This was also the time when Ron Jacques, a farmer from Reno County, began his hand at no-till farming. Since that time, he has converted his entire farm to no-till.

About five years ago, a farmer by the name of Clark Woodworth, also from Reno County, began no-till farming. Each has had their share of successes and failures. Their primary reasons for switching to no-till was the same: first was soil conservation, followed by time savings, and better moisture management.

These two individuals recently presented their trials and tribulations in the courthouse of Harvey County to a group more than 40 interested farmers recently. This will be the first of two columns dedicated to their methods and practices of no-till.

Since Jacques switched farm practices, he claims to see less weed and disease problems in his fields. Crop rotations have been the biggest factor for his success and the Freedom to Farm Bill gave better flexibility in his operation, he said.

Because of his soil types and rainfall, is cropping system is limited. He has more sandier soils than anything and receives about 4-6 inches per year less in moisture than we do in this area. But this hasn’t stopped him from trying crops such as soybeans or corn in his rotations.

During the past couple summers, soybeans haven’t done well with the dry conditions occurring in July, August and September. But he is willing to take some risk planting this crop to achieve greater profitability in good years. He is somewhat conservative in the number of acres he plants.

Something else Jacques has learned with rotating crops is the equal importance of managing residue.

“In no-till you need to know what you will be planting next to plan what type of residue you’ll want to plant the next crop,” he said.

Some of the most difficult issues he faces are when spring planting time comes and there’s so much residue in the field, which makes the soil cold and wet. Those aren’t ideal conditions when you want to plant corn, milo or soybeans.

Another common issue is paying attention to herbicides. Carryover can be a problem for first-time no-tillers because they didn’t plan ahead. With herbicide application, timeliness for spraying weeds becomes a big issue.

“Most no-tillers end up owning their own sprayers so they can spray when there is a need,” Jacques said.

Jacques is doing less double cropping and more full-season crops. His primary crops are wheat and sorghum. He also plants sorghum, sunflowers, and corn to diversify.

Bradley Goering can be reached by e-mail at bgoering@thecsb.com or by telephone at 620-327-4941.

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