The Beck Perspective

"Welcome to the Sam’s Club of soybeans and the K-Mart of corn.”

That’s the amusing analogy Dwayne Beck makes to the growing no-till movement in central and northeastern South Dakota, where strategic managers like Cal and Erik Hayenga are converting the principles of low-disturbance farming techniques into remarkable crop yields.

Beck oversees the farmer-owned Dakota Lakes Research Farm near Pierre, S.D., where soil scientists study no-till systems on field-sized test sites.

Q: You’ve been observing the adoption of no-till (or low disturbance) techniques while heading up the James Valley Research Center near Redfield, S.D., and now at the Dakota Lakes Research Farm. What factors do you attribute to the success of no-till in these areas?

A: There have been great strides in knowledge, equipment, crop varieties, herbicides, etc., but the big difference has been economic opportunity. Good producers take advantage of changing situations, as economic conditions and agronomic tools change.

While many of the no-till rotations we recommend would have worked using the herbicides and varieties available 30 years ago, the farm program in effect at that time discouraged it. Now our cultural methods are much more suited to low soil disturbance.

The trend to more “true” no-till will continue unless we experience a dramatic shift in farm policy or an economic factor that I can’t foresee.

Q: Meteorologists predict North Central and Midwestern precipitation will likely revert to normal, or even below normal levels over the next few years. If so, how might this change affect no-tillers like Cal…

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