This week’s edition of Dryland No-Tiller seems to illustrate that it’s never too late for no-tillers to explore new options that can improve the diversity of their farm operations and increase profitability.
One example is our featured farmer this week, Levi Neuharth, who no-tills mostly small grains on 3,000 acres in central South Dakota but has begun the process of integrating cover crops and livestock into his operation.
Rather than wringing his hands about the soil moisture cover crops might use up, he’s been working with full-season cover crops in certain fields and bringing in cattle in the fall to graze them, one section at a time. His early success with this led him to work with a partner to develop his own herd of red Angus cows for grazing.
If livestock isn’t your cup of tea, Nebraska no-till educator Mark Watson says field peas are still considered a viable alternative in rotations, prior to winter wheat, to serve as a spring legume that adds diversity and breaks up weed and disease cycles.
Since the life cycle of field peas is mostly completed by early July, a shorter fallow period of 2-3 months is possible prior to wheat seeding in the fall, rather than using long-term fallow.
Watson also notes grain companies on the Great Plains are already processing field peas for human consumption, creating a good cash market for the crop.
We all know that change isn’t easy. But it’s hard to argue that growers who integrate livestock into operations, reduce or eliminate tillage, find opportunities with cover crops and use more efficient irrigation practices won’t find themselves in a better financial position — or at least, improve their ability to hedge against risks — in the years to come.