No-till is a farming practice in which the seeds are directly deposited into untilled soil which has retained the previous crop residues. Special no-till seeding equipment with discs open a narrow slot into the residue covered soil which is only wide enough to put the seeds into the ground and cover them with soil. The aim is to move as little soil as possible in order not to bring weed seeds to the surface and not stimulating them to germinate. No other soil tillage operation is done. The residues from the previous crops will remain mostly undisturbed at the soil surface as mulch. Check out the No-Till advantage quick link in the left column for more reasons why we choose this method.
Our sprayer is the busiest implement on the farm. The sprayer we use has a 100 foot aluminum boom, usually spraying around 10-12 mph, and we can spray 500 to 700 acres a day. Hauling our sprayer to each location creates better efficiency for optimum acres. Auto steer and mapping system make it easier to watch and operate the booms over terraced ground, as we can set the passes and let the steering wheel go. This sprayer also has automatic boom shut off when the sprayer enters the headland, shutting off the boom in five different sections and then turning them back on when entering the unsprayed area again. We have to spray the fallow ground (corn stalks that will be planted to wheat in the fall) at least 3 times a summer and the ecofallow ground (wheat stubble planted to corn in the spring) once in the summer, once in the fall, and once in the spring. A lot of our fertilizer is applied with the sprayer also, sometimes banding it on with streamer tips. Since the introduction of Glyphosate resistant corn in the mid 90’s, corn and soybeans can be sprayed during the growing season, killing the weeds and not the crop. For this application we have narrow tires to put on so we can go down the corn row. Fertilizer and broadleaf control chemicals are all we can spray on growing wheat, which we do in the spring before the wheat has a lot of growth. Our most common chemicals used are the glyphosate products (Roundup), 2-4D, Banvil, and atrazine.
Nebraska weather can make it challenging for the spraying process as we shut down when temperature exceed 90 degrees and when the wind exceeds 10 miles per hour. A hand-held meter carried in the sprayer is used after each field is sprayed, giving all the information needed for our log book. The log book is filled out on every field on what was sprayed, rate, field, farm, applicator ID, wind speed, wind direction, temperature, humidity, and acres sprayed. These records are required by the State of Nebraska but are also very useful in billing and monitoring chemical performance. All of the operators of the sprayer are required to have a pesticide applicator license issued from the Nebraska Department of Agriculture.
The benefits of no-till farming are economic as well as environmental. The no-till farming methods will result in more organic matter of the soil, and decreased amount of erosion. This means more fertility, less fertilizer, and higher yields. Additionally, with the advances in cover crops we can greatly reduce the use of high-cost herbicides. No-till might not work as well in areas that receive 40 inches of annual rainfall or have a different soil makeup, but in our area of silt loam soils and 20 inches of rainfall on average, it has proven to be effective.