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WESTERN SOUTH DAKOTA is dry. The last few years it’s been really, really dry. In the drought conditions we see all too often anymore, I’m very glad we no longer till the 750 acres we use to grow forage to help support our 600-head commercial cow/calf herd. We also background and graze about 400 yearlings the following summer.
Tilling was the standard on our operation. My grandfather was a firm believer that if you weren’t plowing, you weren’t farming. However, I saw and learned things in my agronomy classes at South Dakota State University (SDSU) and during my internships that made me question that standard.
I did three years of agricultural internships in eastern South Dakota. On that side of the state, wet springs created planting challenges. Running a disc over the field to dry out the surface so they could plant the next day was the solution.
Then there was us, 350 miles west where we’re moisture deficient nearly all the time. We were discing our soils, too. Why? If they’re using this tool to dry out their soils, why would we ever be using that tool in our conditions? I thought there had to be a better way.