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Dwayne Beck has seen his fair share of struggling no-till operations. From poor emergence to poor yield, no-tillers ask him how they can improve their no-till systems. And he maintains much of this could be solved if no-tillers would only have a bigger picture of a crop production system.
“Most people treat the symptom and don’t look for the cause,” the manager of the Dakota Lakes Research Farm in Pierre, S.D. says. “Up until the ‘50s and ‘60s, farming systems were comprised of cultural practices and management, because we didn’t have much technology. Then someone came along and said, ‘here’s fertilizer, here’s atrazine, here’s 2,4-D and all of these other nice things.’ But what they did was try to replace cultural practices with technology.”
That’s a deadly mistake, Beck says. Attributing tillage, rotation, sanitation and competition as examples of cultural practices, he says there’s not enough technology available to replace tillage practices alone, not to mention the others. One example of this is the growing controversy surrounding resistant weeds.
“If the technology were available for resistant weeds, I’m not sure we could afford it with $1.50 corn,” he says. “And even if it were available and we could afford it, I’m not so sure we could sell it to consumers. Just look at the struggle we’ve had with GMOs.”
While he admits major advances have been made in the past toward farming technologies, Beck maintains that the most powerful tool any no-tiller can…