Ramp Up Diversity and Profitability By Adding Wheat

Winter wheat can serve as a powerful rotational tool for no-tillers by breaking up pest and disease cycles and restoring poorer, worn-out soils.

AMBER WAVES. No-tillers in the traditional corn-soybean rotation may want to consider putting some acres in wheat to progress to a healthier system that confuses pests and results in greater crop yields all around.

In the 150 years that farming has taken place in the U.S., soils have been degraded quite a bit, says Dwayne Beck.

“We’ve lost tremendous organic matter in our soils,” the director of the Dakota Lakes Research Farm says. “If we’re going to continue farming, we have to do a better job.”

No-till practices play an important role in reversing the damage, but Beck says it’s really only the first step. The next step is adding diversity and carbon to the system, especially for no-tillers who are doing the popular rotation of corn and soybeans.

“Soybeans are just inherently low in carbon,” he says. “They don’t produce a lot of residue and they don’t produce residue that’s resilient.”

A natural fit to the corn-soybean rotation is wheat, and no-tillers from the Mid-Atlantic through the Corn Belt are finding many benefits to having the small grain in their systems.

Why Add Wheat?

For the Chalfant family in Parker City, Ind., getting their fields tiled in the summer was their original motivation for adding wheat to their no-till corn and soybean operation 15 years ago.

“Wheat works out well because it gives you a really nice window to tile, do manure and cover crops,” Wade Chalfant says.

Today, they no-till 600 acres each of corn and soybeans and…

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Laura allen

Laura Barrera

Laura Barrera is the former managing editor of No-Till Farmer and Conservation Tillage Guide magazines. Prior to joining No-Till Farmer, she served as an assistant editor for a greenhouse publication. Barrera holds a B.A. in magazine journalism from Ball State University.

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