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When it comes to controlling weeds in a no-till cropping system, some No-Till Farmer readers may think Randy Anderson has gone to extremes. That’s because the Agricultural Research Service agronomist has come up with a 9-year rotation that features no-till and plenty of crop diversity.
As reported recently in Successful Farming, Anderson’s goal is to utilize a number of cultural practices that have been used for years to try and outsmart the weeds.
Stationed at the USDA North Central Agricultural Research Laboratory in Brookings, S.D., Anderson says no-tilling both warm- and cool-season crops in the same rotation can eliminate many weed concerns. In addition, growers gain from the fact that most crops yield better when they show up less frequently in a no-till rotation.
As an example, studies in Anderson’s area have shown corn can yield 24% more when grown only once every 4 years rather than in a 2-year corn and soybean rotation. In addition, he says no-tillers can improve soil health by growing at least 3 years of a perennial forage, such as alfalfa, in their rotation. Plus, having 2 or 3 years of alfalfa will produce enough soil nitrogen to meet the fertility needs for up to 4 years for small grains with South Dakota conditions.
Anderson’s rotation starts with a cool-season seeding of alfalfa that lasts 3 years. This is followed by a year of corn and soybeans in a warm-season cropping program. Next an oat and pea mix is…