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Direct-Seed Case Study Series

Grower Experiences with Direct-Seed Cropping Systems in the Inland Northwest

Authors: Ellen Mallory WSU No-Till Case Study Coordinator, Pullman, WA; Tim Fiez, WSU Extension Soil Fertility Specialist, Pullman, WA; Roger Veseth, WSU/UI Extension Conservation Tillage Specialist, Moscow, ID; Dennis Roe, USDA-NRCS Tristate Resource Conservationist, Pullman, WA; and Donald Wysocki, OSU Extension Soil Scientist, Pendleton, OR.

Veteran PNW direct-seeders will share their experiences and knowledge in an upcoming series of case studies, to be published as Pacific Northwest Extension bulletins. Shown here are preliminary printings of the Rea and Aeschliman case studies displayed at the Jan. 5-7, 1999 Direct Seed Cropping Systems Conference and Trade Show in Spokane, WA.



Why a Direct-Seed Case Study Series?

Many established direct-seeders say one of the keys to their success was having other direct-seeders share their experience and knowledge with them as they developed their own system. This series of seventeen case studies will allow you to learn from experienced direct-seeders throughout the Inland Northwest. Each case study features a single farm operation and will contain:

  • How the grower(s) became interested in and started direct-seeding.
  • Lessons they have learned.
  • Description of their current direct-seed system including:
    • Crops and Rotation
    • Residue management
    • Pest management
    • Fertility program
    • Seeding strategy
  • Description and evaluation of the drill(s) they are using.
  • Primary benefits and challenges of direct-seeding seen by the growers.
  • Advice for new direct-seeders.
  • Economic summary (when available).

Who Will the Case Studies Feature?

The cases are distributed over the range of rainfall zones in the wheat-producing areas of Washington, Idaho, and Oregon. They also cover a variety of no-till drills and cropping systems. Twelve of the seventeen cases are almost ready for publication; they profile the following growers:

  • John and Cory Aeschliman, Whitman, Co., WA
  • Pat Barker and Steve Shoun, Columbia Co., WA
  • Jack and Mike Ensley, Whitman Co., WA
  • Frank Lange, Whitman Co., WA
  • Frank Mader and Tim Rust, Umatilla Co., OR
  • Tim, Kevin and Kurt Melville, Wallowa Co., OR
  • John Rea, WallaWalla Co., WA
  • Nathan and Steve Riggers, Lewis Co., ID
  • Art Schultheis, Whitman Co., WA
  • Sam Seale, Gilliam Co., OR
  • Mike Sr. and Mike Jr. Thomas, WallaWalla Co., WA
  • Paul Williams, Lincoln Co., WA

What Kind of Advice Will be Offered in the Direct-Seed Case Studies?

The case studies rely heavily on the farmer’s 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. 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

"Don't cut short on your rotation--that'll provide you a big safety margin against having something go wrong as far as disease or weeds." – Nathan Riggers (3-year rotation: winter wheat/spring wheat/legume or canola)

"Pay attention to the ‘green bridge.’ Get the green volunteer 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 number one challenge is getting good seed-to-soil contact in heavy residue to get a good stand." – Tim Melville

"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

"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

"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 judgement." – Mike Ensley

"Don’t try to reinvent the wheel. If someone in your area is successfully direct seeding, do what he does for awhile. Tap into what other direct-seeders have already learned. There’s no use repeating the same mistakes they made. Then, when you get your feet firmly on the ground, you can branch off and do what you want to do." – Pat Barker

"Just go out and do it." – Nathan Riggers

How Do You Get the Case Studies?

Direct-Seed Case Studies will be available by the fall of 1999 through the Pacific Northwest Cooperative Extension offices in Washington, Idaho and Oregon, or contacting the state extension publication office in the respective state: Idaho -- (208) 885-7982; Oregon -- (541)-737-2513; Washington -- (509) 335-2999. For more information, contact the WSU Cooperative Extension office of the Crop and Soil Sciences Dept. at (509) 335-2915.


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Hans Kok, WSU/UI Extension Conservation Tillage Specialist, UI Ag Science 231, PO Box 442339, Moscow, ID 83844 USA
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