Here are some additional information and tips from Williamsport, Ind., grower Rick Clark for promoting a more diversified no-till system through utilizing different rotations and adding non-GMO crops.
4 Crop Rotations to Shake Up Your No-Till System
Indiana no-tiller Rick Clark is always looking to keep pests guessing by switching up his crop rotation and changing the rotation within his rotation.
“If you have a 4-year rotation and then you’re going to juggle that 4-year rotation up, that’s looking out 8 or 9 years,” he says.
At the 2019 National No-Tillage Conference, he suggested the following four crop rotations for those looking to shake up their typical system.
With wheat following corn, Rick says the nitrogen (N) program will need to be a little different, but it’s possible.
With this rotation, Rick is trying to spread the corn crops as far out from each other as possible, but for his area he’s limited on what crops can be grown. However, he notes that with hemp being approved in Indiana and likely more states, it’ll be a great crop to add into the rotation to help push corn even further out from each other.
This rotation will work for no-tillers who can supply their crops to local livestock operations. But Rick points out that growers have to be careful when following this rotation, because the livestock producers may want full removal of the forages. “We have to decide if the removal is worth what they’re going to pay us for that forage,” he says.
4. Corn-Soybeans-Idle/Cover Crops-Corn-Wheat
Rick no longer looks at fields as one-year returns on investment and instead thinks about the bottom line on the full rotation, which is why he feels comfortable having one year to just grow cover crops (idle) and no cash crops. While the idle year may not bring in any income, he says the corn yield the following year will be much higher than usual because of it.
“You’ve given the soil a break and you now have the opportunity to throw a massive cocktail at it,” he says, noting that for Midwest growers like himself, the chance of using a warm-season cocktail doesn’t happen often. “Just open your book up and tell your guy you want one of everything and throw it out there. Because what is going to happen is you’ll be blown away on the soil tilth and the way the field changed just in that one year.”
Tips for Selecting Non-GMO Seed
As someone who has been farming for over 35 years, Clark never thought he’d be paid a premium to grow non-GMO crops.
“We were non-GMO back in 1997,” the Indiana no-tiller says. “That’s not that long ago. It’s not that hard to grow this stuff. We don’t have to have all of the traits all of the time.”
In fact, he’s seen better yields with hybrids that have had all the traits stripped out compared to the stacked versions. Even if the stacked hybrids’ yields are close or better than the non-GMO version, Rick notes that he’s only paying $140 for a bag of non-GMO corn.
“The stacked version is going to have to out-yield me by quite a bit just to beat me,” he says.
At the 2019 National No-Tillage Conference, Rick shared four considerations no-tillers
should keep in mind when selecting their own non-GMO seed.
- Limited Selection. Rick says that major seed companies aren’t gearing up for new genetics in non-GMO hybrids like they are with their traited seed. In fact, his seed dealer told him the companies will usually introduce the traited version first before introducing them without the traits. It’s something to keep in mind when looking for seed.
- Cold Germination. If a no-tiller intends to plant his soybeans green as Rick does, he recommends finding a variety that has good cold germination. “The ground is 6-7 degrees cooler, it’s damp, it’s moist. We’ve got to make sure we’ve got good seed.”
- Early Vigor, Excellent Health. When selecting corn hybrids, Rick looks for ones that have good early vigor and excellent plant health on their own. Because he doesn’t use fungicides, he tries to avoid those that respond to fungicides. “I don’t want to have a hybrid that, in my opinion, could be hindered if I don’t spray the fungicide,” he explains.
- Limit Racehorse Hybrids. Rick recommends no-tillers choose more workhorse hybrids than those that may promise higher yields. “Success will come with a bunch of singles,” he says. “Don’t try to swing for the fences every time or it’s not going to be good.”