Experiences with Direct Seeding and Annual Cropping in
the Low and Intermediate Rainfall Zones
Mader-Rust Inc., DBA Sixty-Six Ranch, Echo, OR
My name is Tim Rust. I farm with my wife, Shannon & 3 children twenty miles south of Hermiston, Oregon. We are partners with Shannon=s parents and brother and his family. Our farm consists of 12900 acres of crop ground where we grow mostly wheat.
Generally there is three feet of silty-loam soil. The ground is approximately 90% highly erodible because of wind erosion and lays mostly flat. Our area receives 8@-10@ of rainfall.
We have 1700 acres of irrigated land which is mostly under pivots. Our water comes from a deep well which is in a critical water area. Because of limited water we crop six of ten pivots each year and summerfallow the remaining four. Of the six, five are in fall wheat and one is seeded to seed peas. This seems to fit the resources we have available to us at this time.
The dryland acres have been generally a summerfallow/chemicalfallow-wheat rotation. We have experimented with continuous cropping one 600 acre field for six years. We plowed it for the first time last spring.
Trashy-fallow is our normal summerfallow practice, using conventional tillage methods. Although we like chemical-fallow, conventional fallow lets us cover more ground during seeding in the fall. We feel it is extremely important to get as much wheat up early before the moisture gets too deep.
Chemical-fallow lets us deal with extremely wind-erodible ground. One 400 acre field has not been plowed since 1986 and is generally our best producing ground. Chemical-fallow also lets us work on problem weeds like morning-glory. The field mentioned above had a history of morning-glory, but now is not treated specifically for it.
Weeds are the biggest drawback of using chemical-fallow. Russian thistle is our main problem weed. It is becoming harder to control thus making chemical-fallow less desirable. We did have 2100 acres of chemical-fallow this last year on morning-glory problem ground. The first of October we were able to seed it using a rented Concord air drill.
Another drawback of using chemical-fallow is the stubble. We have tried shredding, harrowing, discing lightly and leaving it stand. A harrow on a hot day seems to work well with chaff-spreaders on combines a must.
Besides the Concord we rented, we own a 20 foot Yielder no-till drill which has done all the direct seeding on our farm since 1986. Generally that includes 900 acres of irrigated ground and some dryland acres in the fall, plus around 1000 acres of spring wheat each year.
We do not see using direct seeding totally on our farm, but do know that it is a very useful tool that we would hate to be without.