Cereal Rye, No-Till Practices Protect Soils, No-Tilled Cotton

Reduced soil disturbance and decades of rye has helped Jimmy and Spencer Smith keep their sandy soils in place, retain soil moisture and log the best-ever cotton crops.

Big thunderstorms and high winds whipping through western Oklahoma don’t make farming an easy task. One wrong turn with the weather, or a poor management decision, can make or break a crop and profitability.

But for the Smith family of Elk City, Okla., cereal rye has been a staple cover crop on their farm for more than 60 years and continues to play a role in keeping sandy soils from blowing or washing away. And a switch to no-till practices 15 years ago is working in tandem with rye seedings to help Jimmy Smith and his son Spencer buffer the farm from water issues, wind erosion and scorching summer heat.

“The water running out of our fields is clear. It’s not your red water coming out of there anymore,” Spencer says.

Starting Out

After briefly trying out strip-till nearly two decades ago, the Smiths switched to no-tilling cotton in 2004, interseeding cereal rye around Sept. 1 into a standing crop with a modified Tye grain drill. “We did that for several years, but lately cotton varieties have really progressed and make a lot more cotton than they used to,” Jimmy says. “We were doing a lot of crop damage with the drill, cutting off the bolls.”


Efficient Cover Crop Spreader

To see a video showing how Jimmy and Spencer Smith’s use a Dalton Ag Mobility 600 fertilizer applicator to spread cereal rye into standing cotton, go to no-tillfarmer.com/articles/8693.

So they started broadcasting cereal rye into standing cotton instead. For…

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John dobberstein2

John Dobberstein

John Dobberstein was senior editor of No-Till Farmer magazine and the e-newsletter Dryland No-TillerHe previously covered agriculture for the Tulsa World and worked for daily newspapers in Chicago, Milwaukee and St. Joseph, Mich. He graduated with a B.A. in journalism and political science from Central Michigan University.

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