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Above Photo: WEED WATCH. More crop diversity with staggered planting dates means Dan Buerkle is more likely to get all his acres sprayed prior to planting. He’s also able to use more cost effective herbicides as he can target grassy weeds in his broadleaf crops and broadleaf weeds in his small grain crops.
NAME: Dan and Lana Buerkle
FARM: B and B Farms
LOCATION: Plevna, Mont.
YEARS NO-TILLING: 10
CROPS: Winter wheat, spring wheat, safflower, peas, corn, canola and hay
Leaving fields in fallow, and heavily tilling to keep them that way, is a deeply ingrained tradition in the often-parched southeastern corner of Montana, where I farm with my wife of 41 years, Lana.
Moisture is scarce. We only get about 14 inches of rain per year, so people have long left fields to rest every other year, hoping to stockpile what little water seeped into their soils.
Tilling the soil to keep the moisture-grabbing weeds at bay actually had the opposite impact. In the hot summer sun, turning the soil allowed even more moisture to evaporate, which is part of why this tillage tradition was the first to go for us.
Hours spent keeping the earth black in summer were transferred to our 120-foot pull-type Top Air 1600 sprayer, as I started using a chemical fallow strategy and no-till planting. By cutting out tillage, I was actually successful at keeping more moisture in the soil. Not tilling also allowed me to address…