When the weather is cooperating, nothing is more cost-efficient than no-till rice and soybeans for Weiner, Ark., farmer Scott Matthews.

But when it rains every week during harvest for a few years in a row, the system can literally get stuck in a rut.

Matthews is the operator of Matthews Farm Partnership and farms 1,400 acres of rice and soybeans in a one-in, one-out rotation. He started no-tilling his rice in 1984, and soybeans, after the second year of Roundup Ready technology.

Matthews says his later start in farming was a factor in adopting no-till. “Coming from the fertilizer/chemical side, I couldn’t figure out why we were making some steps that didn’t seem necessary other than that was the way we always did it.

“I would see these huge flat beautiful fields that looked like a desktop. I asked my dad (Joe Matthews) why we would take a field and make it rougher to plant. It didn’t make any sense. I saw no-till as a way to save time and be more cost-efficient.”

He talked his father into a no-till system, despite the fact that a lot of technology for the system was not yet available.

“In 1984 there was no such thing as a no-till drill. So we took a conventional drill and made a no-till drill. We always try to plant into soft ground. Just as soon as the ground would hold the tractor up, we went in and started planting rice.”

This pushed rice planting up to early April and then late March, which were not typical planting dates at that time.

For Matthews, making no-till work requires thinking two to three steps ahead and never putting off until tomorrow what can be done today.

After soybeans are cut in the fall, Matthews will burn soybean stubble. “If the weather conditions are right, it will burn just like gunpowder across the field. It gives you a beautiful seedbed.”

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P and K applications go out at that time too. “I know it's kind of cost-prohibitive for some people to put it out in the fall. But a lot of companies have programs that will let you go to March 15 if you pay 25 percent down.”