No Till Notes “Two-Thirds - Part 2”

By Mark Watson, Panhandle No-Till Educator
Last week I introduced you to my “2/3 Golden Rule” that I came up with for crop rotations for our region. During our recent field days we had quite a bit of discussion on crop rotations and I came up with this simple concept to remember with two thirds.
The first part of this rule is to always have a minimum of two thirds of your crop rotation be made up of crops that produce high amounts of residue. In our region the main crops that fit this requirement are winter wheat, corn, proso millet, and forage for grazing. For those of you who can grow spring wheat, this would also fit the high residue requirement.
Low residue crops such as field peas, sunflower, safflower, and spring forages such as oat/pea for haying should not be grown on any more acres than one third of your rotation. We need high amounts of residue to make no till cropping systems work in our region.
With our high soil moisture evaporation rates we need a heavy layer of residue on the soil surface to help reduce this evaporation. The heavy amounts of residue will also help significantly with water infiltration into the soil. The high amounts of residue help to capture and store the moisture we receive.
The other part of my “2/3 Golden Rule” is to stack your crop rotation in relation to our annual precipitation moisture pattern. We typically receive the majority of our moisture in the spring and early summer months. This is where I think 2/3 of your crop rotation needs to fit in relation to the crop’s moisture requirements to produce a successful crop.
I also want one third of my crop rotation to require the moisture during the latter part of the summer for top yields. We do receive moisture in July and August so I want a portion of my rotation to take advantage of any rainfall we receive during this time period. Our soil moisture evaporation rates are so high this time of year that I want a crop to take advantage of this moisture rather than lose the moisture to evaporation.
 The two crops that we grow in our rotation which require moisture in the spring and early summer are winter wheat and the field peas. Both of these crops require good moisture early in the growing season to produce top yields.
We also have corn on one third of our acres in our rotation to take advantage of the mid and late summer rains that we get. Proso millet also has this same moisture requirement. These warm season grasses can really take advantage of these summer rain events and produce a lot of yield with a few inches of moisture this time of year.
We also discussed herbicide requirements in no till crop production at our recent field days. With our winter wheat, corn, field pea crop rotation on our dry land acres we have developed a good herbicide program. During this three year crop rotation we only have four herbicide applications. I use glyphosphate with another residual herbicide with each application. We spray the field once for winter wheat and field pea production and twice for the corn portion of our rotation.
With proper crop rotation and timely herbicide applications we have very little problem with weeds on our farm. No till crop production doesn’t require a lot of herbicides if the rotation is designed properly.
Keep in mind the “2/3 Golden Rule” when you design your crop rotation. I really feel these simple concepts will heighten your success level and produce the highest yields to make your farm more profitable. 

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