July 21, 2010 by dwittman
|Dick Wittman no-tills 9,000 acres of wheat and other specialty crops at Culdesac, Idaho, and is a member of the Pacific Northwest Direct Seeding Association.|
One management challenge that is increasingly plaguing many of us as we attempt to “master” the art of direct-seeding or no-till is managing field borders. Many growers have resorted to spraying edges with Roundup. This has resulted in killing native cover grasses.
It’s becoming increasingly difficult to keep China lettuce, cheat grass, Italian rye, bedstraw and a host of other obnoxious weeds from encroaching into the fields. If fences are still on field edges, the problem is magnified.
A leader from the Australia Zero Tillage Association participating in a Direct Seed Association tour several years ago warned us we were heading for a disaster relying too heavily on Roundup. But few seem to come up with alternatives that have long-lasting effectiveness.
Is there a library of management strategies published anywhere in the annals of no-till literature on this topic? Maybe this should be a subject of focus at the next National No-Tillage Conference. How many of you may be seeing a problem with weed control on field edges?
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February 22, 2010 by dwittman
One question I have pondered considerably this winter is why conservation organizations are struggling to remain viable in this “recession” economy.
- Our Pacific NW Direct Seed Assn. has been challenged with a substantial drop in sponsor income and we will soon be losing our executive director.
- I just came back from speaking at the Saskatchewan Soil Conservation Associations’s convention. They are battling finances and their administrators will be going to half time to help make ends meet.
- The ACTS group in Alberta dismantled its longstanding Reduced Tillage Linkages field program due to declining funding — this was a poster child of how five regional experts can help get conservation agriculture on the ground in diverse microclimates.
Never has it been more important to have a support system that helps farmers transition to more sustainable cropping management systems than the present. Our U.S. level of adoption of direct seed/no-till/strip-till pales in comparison to other parts of the world.
It’s a proven fact that these practices are more economically viable — they improve soil, water and wildlife quality; they contribute to global climate improvement; and they leave a smaller carbon footprint.
Chemical and seed companies, as well as environmental organizations, have traditionally been significant contributors to many of our conservation organizations. There seems to be no “belt tightening” when it comes to
supporting annual commodity group conventions, dinners and extracurricular activities.
It’s time to double down our efforts to reinvigorate funding and investment in conservation agriculture from every source possible. This means encouraging individual contributors, as well as businesses, government
organizations and NGOs.
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December 23, 2009 by dwittman
To gauge what’s important in the world of direct seeders and no-tillers, you can look to information vendors, such as conservation-tillage newsletters, farm magazines, no-till publications and no-till conferences.
Headline topics typically deal with the ideal drill and opener, nutrient system, cover crops, biofuels, carbon offsets, yield maximization, cost efficiencies from-no till, precision ag, managing chemical-resistant weeds, etc. Seldom do these media give equal attention to finances, personnel management, succession planning, and balancing personal and business goals.
As we examine the metrics of success, are we really looking at the bigger picture of sustainability, things like environmental stewardship, economic viability and quality of life in a systems approach to managing our business.
As we approach the holiday season and also that dreaded “end of year book balancing act,” it may behoove each of us to examine the following questions:
- What are the mission, vision and key goals of my farm business?
- What are the metrics I use to measure how my business and personal goals are being met?
- Do I have a good handle on my cost of production and how the strategies I’m following have impacted my cost structure over the past 5 years?
- What strategies will I need to tweak or substantially overhaul in the next 1 to 5 years to survive in a volatile price and input cost environment?
A farm’s vision statement might read like this: “We will deem ourselves successful when:
- We have completed our careers with financial security and value our family and business associations;
- Our business has grown, adapted and remained financially viable when we are ready to exit or retire, and;
- Capable successors are willing and able to carry on our heritage.
While the practice of direct seeding or no-tilling may be a core strategy vital to realizing our vision, it’s only one aspect of managing a complex business in today’s competitive environment. I challenge each of our No-Till Farmer readers to reflect on your vision and your strategic plan for fulfilling that vision.
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