By Mark Watson, Panhandle No-Till Educator
I would like to thank everyone who supported and attended our Panhandle No Till Partnership field days this past week. I always enjoy touring the region and visiting with other producers about the challenges and rewards of producing crops and forages in our area.
This year’s field days focused on forage and crop production using no till production practices. We covered a wide range of topics concerning cropping rotations and forage production mixed in with the cropping system.
Obviously with the growing conditions around our region this year there were discussions on the challenges facing producers this year. Many of the crops and forages were struggling with the lack of precipitation. Lower than expected yields are the norm around the region for the most part.
An important concept when examining a challenging year like this one is the fact that a portion of your cropping system should fail during the dry years. If you don’t have some lower than expected yields during a dry year you lack the intensity in your cropping rotation to take advantage of the normal and above normal precipitation years.
Producers with summer fallow winter wheat are harvesting higher yields this harvest for the most part than are the winter wheat yields grown in a continuous cropping system. This is to be expected when we have a year where moisture is by far the limiting factor in yield. The important concept to remember is the summer fallow system failed to capitalize on the above normal precipitation our region enjoyed the previous two years. The lack of production on idle acres in the summer fallow system during the wet period is also a cropping failure.
There are also problems during a year like this one where cropping rotations that are too intense in their nature are also failing. If the weather pattern remains below normal in precipitation these poor rotations will suffer. Cropping rotations that have low residue such as corn following corn, corn following sunflower, sunflower following corn, or winter wheat planted into late maturing summer crops are all struggling with the lack of moisture this year. The loss of yield potential is evident or will become evident if the lack of rainfall persists.
Any summer crops planted on dry land acres with the use of tillage will also struggle. Anytime the soil is disturbed and the layer of residue is moved excessive soil moisture evaporation losses will occur. These high soil moisture evaporation rates will really make a difference of the course of the growing season.
As you drive around the country side this summer you will be able to pick out the crops that were planted into low residue cropping rotations or were planted with tillage. These crops will be the first to show stress from the low precipitation we are experiencing this year.
The crops planted in high residue will hold on until the rains finally come, but at some point it needs to rain. The high residue layer may provide enough moisture savings to maintain the crop until the rain finally falls, which hopefully will be sooner than later.