Western Nebraska Observer - Observations all along the line - Kimball & the Southern Panhandle First

By Mark Watson

No Till Notes



As 2012 winds down I thought a little reflecting back would be a good thing to do. Sometimes it helps to look back on your successes that you were a part of over the past year and take a hard look at your failures to keep you humble and to continue the never ending learning process. Continuing education is important in every business and agriculture is no exception. I feel it is very important to be flexible in your decision making and embrace the changes that are inevitable.

Mother Nature really threw agriculture a nasty curve this past year. Exceptional drought and heat really wreaked havoc on the agricultural community. Water, or the lack of it, reared its ugly head on a broad scale across the country and everyone in agriculture was affected. We are very fortunate in Nebraska to have our groundwater resource. Our irrigation helped ease some of the devastation a severe drought imposes.

Looking back at the growing season we really had a pretty good year despite the drought. Two thirds of our crop rotation on dry land is planned to take advantage of early season moisture with our winter wheat and field peas. We were fortunate to receive a good rain in April which really helped our spring crops produce decent yields.

Our dry land corn failed this year but that’s okay. If your rotation lacks intensity and you don’t fail on part of your rotation during a dry year you won’t take advantage of the normal and above normal precipitation years.

We had good irrigated crop yields this year despite some of the weather challenges. A late season freeze hurt our irrigated wheat yields. We also failed to spray a fungicide on our winter wheat this year, and leaf rust also cost us some yield. We weren’t sure how bad the freeze damage was going to be so we decided against protecting the wheat crop from disease, and that decision cost us some yield. Hopefully we won’t make that mistake again.

Edible bean and corn yields turned out to be better than expected. With the exceptional heat we experienced this year we were concerned about pollination of both crops. Despite the abnormally hot summer the crops persevered through the heat and yields were normal or above normal in the case of the edible beans. The severe wind we had prior to corn harvest did cost us some yield but we were fortunate to not have the significant losses some producers experienced.

We did experience some significant wind erosion on the fields we planted to our winter wheat crop this fall. I felt this was the worst experience I’ve had with our no till crop production over the past 20 years. I also now realize I should have done a better job of management and foreseen the problem before it occurred. We had plenty of residues in these fields to prevent wind erosion. The problem was none of the residue was attached, so it was prone to wind erosion. If I get in a similar circumstance again where I know I can’t get my winter wheat crop to germinate due to dry conditions, I plan to use a hoe drill to create ridges in the field to help control wind erosion.

All in all, we had a good year on our farm. You don’t have to look very far to find others in our community and around our country that had significantly worse tragedies and disasters than what we experienced here at home. I feel very blessed to be surrounded by so many good friends and a wonderful family to share my life experiences with. I hope all of you are as fortunate as I am. May each and every one of you have a very Happy New Year and be blessed with all the good that life has to offer.


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