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Direct Seed Tillage Handbook
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Pacific Northwest Conservation Tillage Handbook Series No. 11
Chapter 10 - Economics and Application of New Technology, December 1999

Direct Seeding Case Study Series
For The Inland Northwest

Veteran direct seed growers share their experiences and knowledge
in a new series of 16 PNW Extension bulletins.

What is Direct Seeding?
Direct seeding refers to cropping systems that fertilize and seed directly through the stubble of the previous crop without using the traditional tillage for seedbed preparation. Only a narrow strip of soil is disturbed with each of the fertilizer and/or seed openers, and much of the crop residue is retained on the soil surface. Direct seeding can be one- or two-pass systems, which are further categorized into high- to low-disturbance, depending on opener design. Direct seeding systems can minimize soil erosion, improve water conservation and soil quality, and potentially increase production efficiency and profitability.

Why a Direct Seed Case Study Series?
Many established direct seed growers say one of the keys to their success was having other direct seed growers share their experiences and knowledge. This series of 16 case studies allows you to learn from experienced direct seed growers throughout the Inland Northwest.

Each case study features a single farm operation and contains:
  • How the grower(s) started direct seeding, and lessons they learned.
  • Description of their current direct seed system including:
    crops and rotation,
    residue management,
    weed, disease and insect control,
    fertility management and fertilizer application,
    seeding strategies.
  • Description and evaluation of the drills they are using.
  • Primary benefits and challenges of direct seeding seen by the growers.
  • Advice for growers new to direct seeding.
  • Economic summary (when available).

Who Do the Case Studies Feature?
The farms featured in this case study series are located across the range of rainfall zones in the wheat-producing areas of Washington, Idaho and Oregon. They use a variety of equipment options and cropping systems.

   Why a Direct Seed Case Study Series?  Why a Direct Seed Case Study Series?
 Low Rainfall (7-12 inches annual precipitation)
 1.  Bill Jepsen  Continuous spring crops (wheat, barley, broadleaf).
 2.  Ron Jirava  Continuous spring crops (wheat, barley, oilseed).
 3.  Mader and Rust families  W. wheat / chemical fallow.
 4.  John Rea  Continuous spring cereals (wheat, barley).
Intermediate Rainfall (13-19 inches annual precipitation)
 5.  John and Cory Aeschliman  W. wheat / sp. cereal / sp. cereal or chemical fallow.
 6.  Jack and Mike Ensley  W. wheat / sp. cereal / legume or chemical fallow.
 7.  Tim, Kevin and Kurt Melville*  Irrigated sp. wheat / sp. barley / broadleaf; *10-26” precip.
 8.  Mike Sr. and Mike Jr. Thomas  W. wheat / sp. wheat / chemical fallow.
 9.  Paul Williams  W. wheat, sp. cereals, chemical fallow, oilseeds.
High Rainfall (20-26 inches annual precipitation)
 10.  Pat Barker and Steve Shoun  W. wheat / sp. cereal / legumes.
 11.  Wayne Jensen  W. wheat, sp. cereals, legumes, oilseeds, grass.
 12.  Frank Lange  W. wheat, sp. cereals, legumes.
 13.  David Mosman  Grass seed, w. wheat, sp. cereals, legumes.
 14.  Steve and Nathan Riggers  W. wheat, sp. cereals, legumes, oilseeds, grass seed.
 15.  Art Schultheis  Grass seed, w. wheat, sp. cereals, legumes.
 16.  Russ Zenner  W. wheat, sp. cereals, legumes, oilseeds, grass seed.
* The case studies featuring these farms will become available over the fall, winter and spring of 1999/2000.

What Kind of Advice is Offered in the Direct Seed Case Studies?
The case studies rely heavily on the growers’ own words. Below is a sampling of their advice.

“Take a piece of land, what ever you think you can afford to try it on, say 50 or 100 acres, get it into a rotation in a direct seed system, and give it a try. But do things right. Make sure you have your green bridge taken care of. Manage your residue. Seed the correct depth. Tap into what other direct seeders have already learned. If someone in your area is successfully direct seeding, do what he does for awhile. Do all of those things and don’t judge it after just one pass. Do it for five years on the same piece of ground and then you will start seeing some of the benefits.” – Pat Barker

“The number one challenge is getting good seed-to-soil contact in heavy residue to get a good stand.” – Tim Melville

“Pay attention to the ‘green bridge.’ Get the green volunteer crop and weeds dead 2 to 3 weeks prior to planting. Don’t be fooled, the pathogens are there waiting for the new plant to start so they can hop on and ride for another year.”
– John Aeschliman

“The timing is more critical with no-till than it is with conventional. You’ve got a smaller hammer [with herbicides vs. tillage] and you’ve got to hit it just perfect. Those guys [conventional-tillage farmers] have a big hammer and they’ve got two weeks either side of ideal to hit it.” – Frank Lange

“Talk with neighbors who are direct-seeding, go to the Direct Seed Conference and field days, and tap into university information.” – Paul Williams

“When you’re seeding you’ve got to be down there, you’ve got to be looking at that stuff. Every day, every time you move to a new piece, it’s a new thing, you’ve got to change your drill so it works.” – John Rea

“One thing about this kind of farming, it’s hard to impress the neighbors because it’s not what they are used to seeing. A lot of times when they drive by a field and it looks kind of rugged, they form adverse opinions of how that field is being managed. But you have to wait until all of the scorecards come in to really pass judgment.” – Mike Ensley

“Don‘t cut short on your rotation when you start out—that will provide you with a big safety margin against having something go wrong as far as diseases or weeds.” – Nathan Riggers

“Find someone who is direct seeding in your area and start asking questions. As Yogi Berra said, ‘You can observe a lot just by watching.’” – Steve Riggers

How Do I Get Copies of the Case Studies?
The case studies in this series will become available over the fall, winter and spring of 1999/2000. They can be ordered through your local Cooperative Extension office or directly from the extension publication offices in Idaho (208) 885-7982, Oregon (541) 737-2513 and Washington (800) 723-1763. They are free but a small handling and shipping fee may be required. The cases studies are also available on-line at <http://pnwsteep.wsu.edu> (click on Direct Seed Case Studies).

To find out about the availability of the case studies, or for other information, see the above web site or contact Cooperative Extension, Department of Crop and Soil Sciences, Washington State University at (509) 335-2915.

Pacific Northwest Conservation Tillage Handbook Series publications are jointly produced by University of Idaho Cooperative Extension System, Oregon State University Extension Service and Washington State University Cooperative Extension. Similar crops, climate, and topography create a natural geographic unit that crosses state lines in this region. Joint writing, editing, and production prevent duplication of effort, broaden the availability of faculty, and substantially reduce costs for the participating states.

The Pacific Northwest Conservation Tillage Handbook is a large, three-ring binder handbook that is updated with new and revised Handbook Series publications. It was initiated in 1989 as a PNW Extension publication in Idaho, Oregon and Washington. Updates to the Handbook are provided when the updating card is returned. By 1999, 47 new PNW Conservation Tillage Handbook Series have been added to the original 98. Copies of the complete Handbook are available for $20 through county extension offices in the Northwest or ordered directly by calling state extension publication offices: Idaho -- (208) 885-7982; Oregon -- (541)-737-2513; Washington -- (509) 335-2999 (some shipping and handling charges and sales tax may apply). It's now accessible on the Internet! All of the PNW Conservation Tillage Handbook and Handbook Series are on the Internet home page (http://pnwsteep.wsu.edu) Pacific Northwest STEEP III Conservation Tillage Systems Information Source. The home page also contains recent issues of the PNW STEEP III Extension Conservation Tillage Update, listings of other conservation tillage information resources, coming events and much more. For more information on the Handbook or updates to the Handbook, contact Roger Veseth, WSU/UI Conservation Tillage Specialist, Plant Soil and Entomological Sciences Department, University of Idaho, Moscow, ID 83844-2339, phone 208-885-6386, FAX 208-885-7760, e-mail (rveseth@uidaho.edu).

Cooperative Extension programs and policies comply with federal and state laws and regulations on nondiscrimination regarding race, color, gender, national origin, religion, age, disability, and sexual orientation. The University of Idaho Cooperative Extension System, Oregon State University Extension Service and Washington State University Cooperative Extension are Equal Opportunity Employers.


Contact us: Hans Kok, (208)885-5971 | Accessibility | Copyright | Policies | WebStats | STEEP Acknowledgement
Hans Kok, WSU/UI Extension Conservation Tillage Specialist, UI Ag Science 231, PO Box 442339, Moscow, ID 83844 USA
Redesigned by Leila Styer, CAHE Computer Resource Unit; Maintained by Debbie Marsh, Dept. of Crop & Soil Sciences, WSU