I’ve been discussing 10 tips for successful no-till crop production and thus far I’ve covered choosing a good crop rotation, winter wheat as the most important crop for supplying a consistent amount of residue to make the rest of the crop rotation function, and utilizing a stripper head to manage this residue.
A fourth important production tip for our area is to add field peas to the crop rotation prior to the winter wheat portion of the continuous no-till crop rotation.
Field peas have proven to be the best crop prior to winter wheat seeding in our cropping rotation, as it provides a spring legume to add diversity and helps break up persistent weed and disease cycles. Field peas also add to the diversity of our herbicide program for the crops we grow.
Spring-planted field peas need moisture during the same time as winter wheat to reach maximum grain yield. The months of April, May, and June are critical for winter wheat and field pea crop production when it comes to moisture.
Both these crops require good precipitation during the same time period that we typically receive good moisture in our area for maximum grain production.
The field peas also give us a fallow period prior to winter wheat seeding. Field peas have pretty much completed their growth cycle in early July, which gives us a fallow of 2-3 months prior to winter wheat seeding.
This allows us to build some moisture for the winter wheat and plant it during the optimal time period for winter wheat seeding, which improves winter wheat yields in a continuous no-till production system.
I also think field peas will prove to be a very profitable crop for producers in our area. New Alliance, along with other grain companies, are processing our field peas for the human consumption market. Field peas are an important source of protein in the human marketplace, which creates a good cash market for this crop.
I would encourage everyone who produces winter wheat on their farm to take a look at using field peas as a replacement for long-term fallow.
Field peas may also be a good crop choice for producers who have limited irrigation or need to lower their consumptive use of our groundwater resource.
The field peas shouldn’t need a lot of supplemental irrigation to produce profitable yields. We’ll learn more about field pea production under irrigation this growing season, as several producers will be growing field peas under irrigation.
A fifth, important tip is that utilizing a diverse crop rotation really helps with breaking up persistent weed cycles.
We usually don’t have much of a weed problem following winter wheat harvest. I think the lack of weeds in our winter wheat stubble is because of diverse crop rotation.
We also have taller stubble with the stripper header we use for winter wheat harvest, which helps shade the soil and reduce weed seed germination.
I’ll write next week about other important tips we have found useful in improving our no-till crop production system.