Experiences with Direct Seeding Systems in the Higher Rainfall Annual Cropping Regions of the Inland Northwest

Roger Miller

Colfax, WA

Farming conditions change as technology moves forward. We must be willing to adapt to those conditions and changes. Farming with my father Marshall and brother Dean, there has been a need to look at the operation and evaluate the practices and management from the position of stewardship of the land. Farming in a rainfall area that starts out at 18 inches near Dusty, WA and moving to an area that has 22 inches near Palouse, WA has created some unique needs. Slope changes are some of our greatest concerns, with flat level bottoms to side hills that vary up to 55%. Soil types vary from a Walla Walla silt loam, Athena silt loam, to a Thatuna silt loam. The soil depths vary as well as conditions. All creating a challenge in management and farming practices.

Crop rotation has become important with conservation and production in mind. Being flexible with winter wheat, spring wheat, spring barley, and some peas in our area has allowed us to maintain a strong production base. We have some fields with a 3-year rotation with other fields rotated on field conditions, and production returns. Rainfall has a large role in our crop rotation.

We believe that being flexible in tillage practices is a key in farming with profit and conservation. Over the years we have slowly moved from full tillage to a low-till and no-till operation, trying to balance the cost of production, the results of erosion, and the responsibility of stewardship. We first started with renting no-till equipment to having custom seeding done, back to renting so we could see what would work in our area. Through the years of trial and error, we saw that we have a wide range of needs that no one drill could meet. Varying conditions have mandated a drill to work in all conditions. We=ve used many drills and decided to build one that would meet our needs the best. With our drill we can no-till or use it in a low-till situation. We are able to seed in wet spring time conditions.

Direct seeing has allowed us to farm more acres while still being efficient with our time. The many benefits that we experience has been worth the time and money invested. We have reduced erosion, noticed a reduction in diseases with rotational changes, become more efficient with our time, and experienced great satisfaction in making it work.

There are some areas we have had to deal with to keep direct seeding viable. Weed control has become one of our primary concerns. Goatgrass and cheatgrass are one to watch. Rotation and chemicals are our best source for control. We have had to change our thinking in the area of chemicals. A good chemical program will determine your success in direct seeding. You need to be willing to put some additional finances into a direct seeding program. Chemicals that work will become of the keys to a successful direct seeding program.

Since we have developed our own drill, we have seen many manufacturers design new and different drills. We must make aware the unique needs of our areas and be willing to use new technology on our farms. We are committed to the further development of this practice and will do our best to continue to make it successful in our farming operation.

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