Curt Roth has been no-tilling on his farm in Sheridan County near Clinton since 1999. Not only was Roth interested in saving water in a part of the state that is usually a little short of precipitation, but he also wanted to save time in the field.
Roth told a group of no-till farmers attending an irrigated no-till Panhandle tour on his farm recently that he has developed his cover crop systems and crop rotations over time, adjusting the program when he needed to. Currently, his line-up of crops includes spring and winter wheat, field peas, pinto beans, sunflowers, millet, alfalfa and corn. He has also planted soybeans.
Although Roth began planting field peas back in 2008, using the crop mostly in cover crop mixtures, this past season he planted peas for grain because of new marketing opportunities in his region. He says that he normally plants cover crop mixtures of oats, turnips, radishes and field peas into wheat stubble that will be planted into corn the following spring. Roth uses the same mixture minus field peas when planning to plant pinto beans the following year.
"We plant cover crops behind dryland wheat or in irrigated wheat stubble," Roth says. "The turnips help breakdown the residue if we are planting corn behind the wheat." Because he employs a stripper head when harvesting wheat, pinto beans and field peas, he has a considerable amount of crop residue left in the fields after combining. The extra residue helps to catch moisture in the form of snow in the winter, and helps to build his soil and prevent erosion over time.
In addition to stops at the Roth farm at Clinton, other no-till field tour stops were made at Watson Brothers farm near Alliance, the Mark and Pat Ernest farm near Dalton and the Kirk Laux farm at Bridgeport. You can learn more about no-till practices and cropping systems in the Panhandle by reading an upcoming print article in the next issue of Nebraska Farmer or by visiting the Panhandle No-Till Partnership website.