What is in this article?:
• Scott Matthews is a no-till rice and soybean producer who has been struggling to keep his cultivator out of the field as of late.
• Fall rains have disrupted the system because rutting during harvest has required significant tillage to smooth the ground back out.
• But when no-till is accompanied by favorable weather, Matthews says the system works perfectly.
SCOTT MATTHEWS had a run of 10 years of perfect no-till weather, but the last three have challenged the system.
Rice straw left standing
Rice straw is left as it is, Matthews notes. “We don’t burn it, we don’t flood it and we don’t roll it. We need that rice stubble so that we’ll have a mat of protection for the soybeans, and it will hold moisture. It’s like mulching a garden.”
Holding duck water on those fields can complicate matters, Matthews noted. “If you’re holding duck water you still have your spills and your levees out there. It’s going to be an issue. We want the ground dry at harvest. That’s our best chance at no-till.”
Benefits from no-till included an increase in soybean yields of 8 bushels to 10 bushels an acre. There has also been an increase in efficiency in the rotation. “You’re going from combine to drill to combine with less fuel costs and less tillage cost.”
Last year, Matthews had one of his best yields ever in rice, about 202 bushels across the farm. He hauls all his rice to Riceland Foods in Weiner, Ark.
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Weather over the last few years has had a negative impact on both rice quality and his no-till program. “Our quality usually starts out good, then we catch a shower, and the rice gets wet and has to dry out again.
“My milling starts out outstanding, but every time it rains, it gets a little worse. When it rains eight or nine weeks during harvest, I don’t know that any variety will do well.”
Rains at harvest have also put Matthews’s no-till program on hold after a great 10-year run of almost perfect no-till weather.
“We got really relaxed thinking it can happen like that all the time, but it didn’t. I’m a no-till rice and soybean producer, but had to buy a new disk last fall, the first one I’ve had to buy in 17 years. All because of the weather.
“Last year it cost about 5,000 gallons to 6,000 gallons of diesel to put the crop in. A lot of times in no-till, we can put it in for a whole lot less than 1,500 gallons.”
All Matthews can do is prepare and hope for the best. “We’ll go back to our old conventional-tillage and get the ruts out. It will take several years to get it back to the way we had it when we were no-tilling.”
Resistant weeds such as horseweed and Palmer amaranth could also be a challenge to Matthews’s no-till program. They haven’t shown up in force yet, “so I don’t know if I have an issue yet or not. But I’m going to have to do things on a small scale to make sure I don’t have some other issues that have cropped up.”
But that’s the nature of farming, Matthews says. “Farming changes so much every three or four years. Farmers used to never think too far ahead. But no-till makes you think. I can plan three or four years in advance of what I’m going to do. I got really lucky there with great weather for a long time.”
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