PERFECT VS. IMPERFECT SEEDBEDS. With irrigation, the Penny Ranch operators always want a perfect seedbed made with extensive tillage. With dryland corn, the three brothers who operate this ranch arenâ??t as fussy and rely extensively on no-till to conserve valuable water.

No-Till Wins Dryland Battles

When pouring on the water, these ranchers have a good reason to till. But for conserving water, no-till is definitely the answer.

Growing continious irrigated corn, Kevin Penny isn’t fully convinced no-till is the way to go. But when it comes to dryland acres where water is a major concern, no-till definitely is the way he likes to farm.

Located at Burlington, Colo., the Penny Ranch grows irrigated continuous corn plus dryland corn, wheat, sunflowers and operates a 5,000 head feedlot.

“Everything has to be just perfect with irrigation,” says Kevin who runs the family operation with brothers Gary and Greg. “The calendar rather than field conditions determine when we do things in our irrigated continuous corn fields.

“We start planting irrigated corn during the last week of April. We rely on tillage to be ready to go at the right time and get the crop in fast to meet our irrigation schedule.

“We need excellent seed-to-soil contact with irrigated corn, which isn’t always possible with no-till. And we want corn plants evenly spaced every 6 to 7 inches.

“Everything has to be done just right when it comes to getting the crop planted properly and at the right time.”

No-Till Saves Moisture

It’s a different story with dryland corn. “If the moisture is there, we no-till,” says Penny. “But conditions have to be right at planting time to make no-till work effectively in this cropping area.”

The three brothers know in advance how many acres of irrigated corn they will grow. But they’re never sure about the dryland corn acreage since it depends on available moisture. Thanks to no-till, they’re fallowing…

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