The Combine Forum banner

1 - 20 of 32 Posts

·
Registered
Joined
·
15 Posts
Discussion Starter #1
Wondering what peoples data has shown for different cropping systems in NW Montana. For years its been a 50/50 setup of wheat/barley and fallow. Now with the tight profit margins and the plain COST just to farm chem-fallow does it really make sense? Going to say a 2/3 crop system does it pay off or not? At least if your breaking even with a lower yield its still cheaper then paying to chem-fallow.

ENLIGHTEN ME WITH YOUR FACTS

PFA

THANKS
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
3,882 Posts
Don't have any facts, only similar questions!

We're not too far north of you just across the border, and are wondering the same thing. The main thing is weed control is getting difficult. It's partly glyphostate resistance, but mostly it's because the weed (narrow-leaved hawks beard) that has moved in is hard to kill with chemicals, period with it's little leaves that don't absorb herbicides very well. Russian thistle is hard to kill too when it's dry.

How many passes do you do on your chemfallow? Seems like lately we go in 4 times with various tank mixes, which isn't cheap and not always very effective, especially in the hot summer. Glyphosate resistance is a big concern too, as well as group 4 resistance.

Most of my neighbors continuously crop on dryland. I imagine wheat and lentil yields on a dry year are low. But I think weed control is much easier with crop growing. One of my neighbors uses a stripper header and leaves the stubble long, which catches the snow nicely. He gets very good crops year after year, definitely more than 50% of my summerfallowed ground yields.
 

·
Premium Member
Joined
·
5,729 Posts
My last chem fallow was 30 acres in 2012 where I ran out of canola seed and didn't bother getting more. I had started to move to a more intensive cropping rotation in the mid 2000s. Since then, I would think the only year we have been behind on summerfallow yields would have been in 2019 since we didn't have much reserve going into that year. The only soil moisture data I have seen about chemfallow is that it at the most will save 2 inches of soil moisture. And I think that now since I am running a disc drill and stripper header that would be even less. I remember the springs of seeding into chem fallow and thinking it was so wet because I was getting stuck all the time. Now I realize that was just inactive soil with no structure from having no living roots in it for 18 months. It was slimy and gross and didn't hold up the sprayer. Once I started cropping more, I noticed the soil probe would go down as deep in the stubble so we had as much moisture, but I wouldn't get stuck.

In my area from 2002 to 2017 we probably grew nearly the same bushels on stubble as chem fallow. We had higher fertility requirements until we started to get nutrients cycling better, but we also didn't have the weed control costs of trying to keep fallow clean. So we are far ahead as if I would have been making a profit on only half my acres. Will the next 15 years be the same with rainfall? I have no idea. But from what I have seen and learned about healthy soils, there is not point in going back to having something growing only 5 months out of a 2 year period.


If you haven't started fall spring for Narrow Leaved Hawksbeard, that is where you will get a lot of your control. I often hear that herbicide resistance comes from RR crops, but there are thousands of acres of resistant kochia in Southern Alberta and SK that never have had a HT crop planted. I am convinced most of out resistant kochia is from chemfallow. Light rates of glyphosate and a low rate of dicamba in Rustler sprayed 2 or 3 times a year in chem fallow with no crop competition really selected for resistance quickly.
 

·
Premium Member
Joined
·
297 Posts
Yup trying to controll the kochia in Chen follow was the reason we were CC. But anybody saying there going to get the same yields as Chem follow are dreaming in my
Area. Maybe 1-5 years when it turns wet.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
3,882 Posts
Sorry to hijack your thread, 1dyer9.

Excellent information, guys. Especially the observations about soil structure.

Like merimat2, we definitely aren't going to get the same yields here either. The same would apply in Montana too.

Dryland is a tiny part of our operation, so we won't be buying a stripper header just for that. But there may be a place for it on our irrigation as well. so we're considering it in the long term. It's also difficult to use Canola in rotation in dryland for us, as we usually need to keep isolation for canola seed production on our other acres, which includes controlling volunteers (what a battle).
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
160 Posts
In north central Montana most guys are still 50/50, but I am trying to switch to more of a 2/3, 1/3, a few guys are doing it with good success, and we need to get some rotation going. My main reason is improving soil with a variety of crops instead of cereals and cash flow. I spent a fortune on land and chemical that didn't generate me any income with the wheat/fallow rotation.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
268 Posts
I farm a few hours West of you in Eastern Washington. In my area the traditional practice is a two year wheat/fallow rotation. My operation has been using no-till chem fallow for about 20 years but there is still a fair amount of conventional tillage based fallow here as well.

I've been trying to get a 3 year rotation of fall seeded crop -> spring seeded crop -> fallow to work for a number of years now. Its been a pretty mixed bag. The issue we have is most of our moisture comes during the winter and it can get really hot in June, which just kills the yield on spring seeded crops, especially things like spring canola. If we get lucky and the weather cooperates we can grow spring crops that are very economically competitive, but that may only happen once every 5-8 years. The rest of the time you might break even, but there is no profit. At this point I'm moving away from spring crops a bit. I'm totally done with spring canola, though I do still grow some spring cereals. Right now I'm experimenting with dormant seeding spring wheat, hopefully that will work out.

In the absence of more spring seeded crops what I have been able to do to diversify my crop rotation is use crops such as winter peas, winter canola, triticale, etc. When I do grow some spring crops like wheat or barley, usually those are following a low residue winter crop like peas or canola. My main motivation there is to have more surface residue going into my fallow year. I use a stripper header on every crop I can and I disc drill for seeding most of the time. I still have a hoe drill for those dry summer when I need to seed deeper than the disc drill will go to get to moisture.

What may work for you is going to be completely dependant on your weather patterns, if you get reliable rains during April, May, & June and it doesn't get super hot I can see where using more spring crops would be the way to go.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
620 Posts
Drove from sask to great falls montana this week and noticed allot of soil erosion between big sandy and great falls but closer to great falls. Looked like mostly winter wheat acres. Close to Fort Benton must be pretty sandy soil there. And pretty strange from the border north to elkwater quite a bit if snow, border south not so much. Looks like there was decent crops last year in that area.
 

·
Premium Member
Joined
·
5,729 Posts
I think someone said on Twitter that there was a bad hailstorm (or maybe a fire???) on lentils and peas in that Fort Benton area and then they put it into winter cereals to try to get some cover but it didn't have any residue so was pretty exposed for the winter they have been having.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
12 Posts
I agree with your thinking. Most acres here are 50/50 chemfallow. Chemfallow is getting expensive as weeds are getting harder to kill. I figure it cost around $55 to chemfallow (herbicides, sprayer depreciation, prop taxes and land costs) so at $5.5 sw, 10 bushels to pay for the cf. Going to try 2/3 crop this year.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
15 Posts
Discussion Starter #12
We are for sure getting resistance kochia from the chem-fallow. To me we figure about $4x/acre a year to spray chemfallow, on top of that the lease payment which is up around $50 now a days. Now you got $9x an acre for the year to hopefully try an save some moisture. We grow great winter wheat and barley here in the golden triangle. WW and barley yield from 70-100bu/ac. My thoughts are if we can continuous crop or go to a 2/3 rotation even if we break even on cost on those acres that were reseeded now that we will be money ahead plus better weed control. Only worry is once a drought comes then do you cut back to half and half until ground can recoup or just keep the train rolling?
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
5 Posts
We’ve been virtually 90% cropped over the last 8 years, and can say it’s been the best decision for our operation. Would have been 100% if the weather would let us get stuff done in a timely fashion. The further we get into continuous crop, the better stuff is getting. We mix the rotation up with low and high water use crops, so lots of peas, lentils and barley in between the wheat and canola crops. Have found better water use efficiency on our average and marginal soils, with winter wheat yields on our limited amount of fallow acres being 3 to 5 bushel better than recrop. On our primo ground fallow wheat is still 15+ bushel better than on recrop but that ground has a much higher yield potential to start with. So facts on our farm: we are spending much less per crop on chemical by utilizing cheaper chemistries and eliminating problem weeds in subsequent crop years (for instance, grass weeds are no longer a huge worry in wheat crops because we can spray them in crop on pulse/canola acres on the cheap, and the plant competition definitely works wonders). We are starting to see better fertilizer use efficiency, not cutting back rates but seeing higher yields and better quality with the same rates. We are also seeing better water use efficiency, such as more bushels produced with less in season moisture. All of this is not without cons however, I won’t lie because there is way more management needed on the agronomic side, as well as marketing the crop, storing the crop, and dealing with finicky weather at harvest time. I will say it has for sure been better for our financials, and that’s even with the crumby markets we’ve had, but as we are all farmers, I think we can agree its always nice to see something growing instead of bare dirt. Also I’ll preface all of this with the caveat that we had converted to 100% no till in the late 90’s and we started this more intensive cropping in the early 2010’s to help combat saline seeps and the string of excessively wet years we had. We farm in Fergus county in a relatively consistent 14” precip zone, so weather wise probably pretty similar to you other than maybe a few more timely showers in the late spring and summer than if you are more in the highway 2 and north high line area.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
5 Posts
Also after the drought of 2017 we thought about cutting back but decided against it and were rewarded with a very good growing season in 2018. Let’s face it, in Montana we never know if we are just a couple weeks away from drought, but my thoughts are if you’ve got the moisture come seeding time than grow a crop. If we ever get into another prolonged dry spell like early 2000’s or 80’s than all this might go out the window but until then keep that train rolling.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
1,507 Posts
I bought a camera sprayer and it has been magic on hard to kill and resistance weeds as well as dramatically reducing chemical costs. Downside is you are running up more hours on the tractor and wages and of course the initial outlay of the unit, but I love it. Don't know how they would fit your climate
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
5 Posts
Undelhoven what have you found best for combating the salinity?
Just by going to a continuous crop rotation we’ve really helped dry the wet spots out, can now spray and seed across all but the very worst corners/pockets. Not going to lie, as far as the salinity portion goes anywhere that turned white is yet to even grow foxtail or kochia and probably won’t for the foreseeable future. I think the only way to cure that is to go back into perennials, some guys in our area have seeded whole sections back down to alfalfa and it has really worked wonders, but might not be a practical crop for most. Our worst spots happen to get recharged from the neighbor’s side of the fence, so not much we can do with those other than prevent them from growing. We grow a fair amount of back to back barley on our worst saline she eep fields trying to get something to grow further and further into he edges as well.
 

·
Premium Member
Joined
·
2,047 Posts
I think someone said on Twitter that there was a bad hailstorm (or maybe a fire???) on lentils and peas in that Fort Benton area and then they put it into winter cereals to try to get some cover but it didn't have any residue so was pretty exposed for the winter they have been having.
I understand it was hailed out. That ground blew very bad this winter. They had to close the highway once because of dust and no visibility. A few wrecks occurred. How much weight can we use this for our decision making? I wouldn't. I believe they made the right decision at the time with given knowledge. Planting winter wheat. With hind sight I would say leaving would have been better to avoid blowing. Who knew the winter wheat would have been that little by the time the snow fell. Or not up at all.

Back to the question. I have the same questions. I farm north of highway 2 in Toole and Liberty counties. I keep trying the recropping thing on a section worth of land or so. Every piece is a little different and each year brings different situations. Basicly, it aint working for me. Taking over some family ground and decided to summer fallow most of it. Sprayed it once in the spring then plowed it twice after kochia didn't die. Once with out rods then again with rods. I have a learning curve but plan to do it again. The cost was nothing compared to chem fallow. By spraying it once in the spring saved moisture and waited till mid June or so to plow. Plowed it shallow as I felt safe with. A bit to shallow on a few pieces of ground. Like I said, learning. Anyway, dont be afraid to pull out the plow if needed. Don't go broke buying chemical. I was farming it for mom last year. She made money. Even in one of the worst drought years I have seen in that area. The combination of chem fallow and summer fallow seemed to work well. There is also going organic that might work for you. I have ground it wouldn't work on. It hates to be plowed at all. Turns to cement. Chem fallow has been good for it. Sorry, few for sure agronomy answers in farming that I know of.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
3,882 Posts
I tried to get out the old noble blade the other year to do some mechanical summerfallow mid summer after a couple of months of chemfallow. Couldn't get the blade to go in the ground.
 

·
Premium Member
Joined
·
297 Posts
I tried to get out the old noble blade the other year to do some mechanical summerfallow mid summer after a couple of months of chemfallow. Couldn't get the blade to go in the ground.
lol I can relate.

As for salt spots we found cc has helped keep them down. Made the mistake one wet year to leave a half. Lots of low spots filled with water. The salt came up around the low spots. Bet we lost 5-8% of the field. Lession learned
 
1 - 20 of 32 Posts
Top