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No-till is a tool like a disk or a plow

"Some farmers park their plows and disks and go strictly no-till, but that is not our farm," Rendel said.

By Doug Rich


NO-TILL IS JUST A TOOL--On his farm in northeast Oklahoma Brent Rendel said no-till is just a tool like a disk or a plow. It has its place in certain situation depending on the field and the crop. (Journal photo by Doug Rich.)

No-till farming is a tool, nothing more and nothing less, according to Brent Rendel. A disk is a tool, a plow is a tool and no-till is a tool.

"Some farmers park their plows and disks and go strictly no-till, but that is not our farm," Rendel said.

Brent Rendel said his dad started planting no-till soybeans in the 1970s, but the chemicals available at that time were not as effective as what they have today. Improvements in chemical products and in no-till equipment have made no-till a better option but not the only option on Rendel's northeast Oklahoma farm.

"No-till is primarily our moisture saver," Rendel said. "It is not overly dry around here but the way we plant soybeans and the maturities we use, primarily in double crop soybeans, they can get stressed at the wrong time."

Rendel said, if they can plant the soybeans into a no-till environment after a wheat crop they can conserve moisture. In northeast Oklahoma, they measure their topsoil in inches, not feet, so they have to make the most of what they have.

Advantages

Another advantage is that the residue forces the soybeans up and gets the pods off the ground, Rendel said. Over 90 percent of their double-crop soybeans are planted no-till.

"If we can force that plant to put pods up higher and get more of them, it is better," Rendel said. "However, this year it did not matter if it was clean-till or no-till. We had very adequate moisture for soybean production."

Rendel has experimented with no-till corn with limited success. However, in northeast Oklahoma, he is planting 100 to 195 day corn varieties at the end of March and the first of April. No-till does not allow the cold, damp soil to dry out and warm up quick enough that early in the spring.

"We will stick with conventional tillage methods on corn for now," Rendel said.

Rendel also tried some no-till sunflowers with limited success. The available post-emerge herbicides for sunflowers are basically none, according to Rendel.

"So tillage really helps us out there," Rendel said.

All of his double-crop sunflowers were tilled this year. Rendel decided to give sunflowers a try last year after a wet June and July made it too late for planting soybeans.

"After the fourth of July around here, a person is rolling the dice on soybeans as to whether you will beat the frost," Rendel said.

Rendel does not like to plant soybeans later than July 10. When he was done planting soybeans according to the calendar, he still had 600 acres without a crop. Oklahoma State University said he could plant sunflowers until August 1. Rendel said the sunflowers did just fine and the cost of production was the same as soybeans.

No-till wheat

He has had more success with no-till wheat. Nearly 70 percent of their wheat this year was no-till planted into corn stalks. Rendel said no-till wheat does much better now with a stronger herbicide package for wheat.

"There are some disease concerns in wheat that we don't have in soybeans," Rendel said.

There has been no big difference in the performance of no-till wheat and conventionally tilled wheat on Rendel's farm. He may sacrifice a few bushels per acre but the big thing for him is time.

"When we are tying to get wheat in, we are trying to get soybeans out," Rendel said. "We are trying to do a lot of things at the same time."

Time and moisture are the main reasons he began planting no-till wheat, with time being the number one issue.

His crop rotation is set up to produce four crops in three years. Rendel plants wheat followed by double-crop soybeans. The next year, he will have soybeans again followed the next year by corn and then back into wheat.

Tillage

The amount of tillage he does depends on the field and what it needs.

"We till a field for sure before going into corn," Rendel said.

Rendel will do a heavy disking followed with a finish disk or field cultivator, or go in with a chisel plow then a field cultivator to incorporate herbicide. Rendel does own a moldboard plow and will use it occasionally as needed.

"A moldboard plow still has its place," Rendel said.

Rendel said it has been interesting to see how no-till will convert a field and it will become mellower and have better drainage. If he does till fields like that, it does create some problems with hardpan and drainage issues.

"But, in our environment here, those are not insurmountable and are not a huge problem," Rendel said.

If everything works out right, most of his fields will go 18 to 24 months before they are tilled. Rendel uses a moldboard plow rarely and normally uses a chisel plow. He has gone to more shallow tillage and time will tell if that is good or bad. It has only been the last few years that Rendel has gone into a more extensive period of no-till.

"I did not think crop residue would break down as quickly as it does," Rendel said.

Rendel has two no-till drills that he uses for wheat and soybeans.

"We set them up for twin-row soybeans, six rows on 30 inch centers 7.5 inches apart," Rendel said. "I really like twin-row soybeans. I don't gain a lot on yield as opposed to 15-inch rows, but I can drive down them a lot easier when I am spraying."

This year he has tried bedded wheat. Rendel thought these semi-permanent beds might help some fields with no slope, where crops are prone to drown out. The bedding tool made a bed that is 6 to 8 inches tall and then Rendel drilled wheat on the beds. Each bed is 60 feet wide and set up on 30-inch centers.

"Most people would say I am not a no-tiller and I am not," Rendel said. "No-till to me is a tool. When it works for my situation it is great."

Doug Rich can be reached by phone at 785-749-5304 or by e-mail at richhpj@aol.com.

1/12/09
4 Star NE\1-B

Date: 1/6/09



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