FARMER FOCUS: Forced to direct drill a maize crop

It seems our drought has eased significantly with good rains over the last month. Warm temperatures have finally arrived and maize planters were rolling all over the nation last week.

I managed to get my crop planted on 14 and 15 May, the deadline for crop insurance was 15 May. One internet source suggested about half the US maize crop was planted last week, it is always hard to know what is true and what isn’t, but if the rest of the nation is like my part of Kansas it is believable.

I ended up no-tilling my maize even though it was not my intention. The weather forecast at the beginning of the week suggested we would have only two good days for field work so I decided to forgo trying to get a good seed-bed prepared and opted for burndown instead.

My soyabeans have been no-tilled since 1998, but I’ve only no-tilled 8ha of maize. The amount of cultivations carried out today compared with 20 years ago is probably less than half, but the divide among farmers in my area is strong, with people like my dad completely against no-till.

The weakness of the system is the total reliance on chemicals for weed control. This has been magnified with the evolution of herbicide resistant weeds. I now have weeds that will live through the full rate of glyphosate and 2,4-D.

I am using a product called Sharpen (saflufenacil) with the glyphosate that at the moment will take down resistant weeds for burndown. I’ve also returned to using a residual herbicide along with glyphosate to control summer annual weeds.

In the past decade, we’ve gone from nearly perfect, cheap and easy weed control backwards to the days before Roundup Ready soya, where you hold your breath every time you spray and pray that you get control.

Next year sees the debut of glyphosate/dicamba resistant soya beans and I hope that will improve weed control. The key will be managing this GM technology so we don’t end up with weeds resistant to this active as well.

Brian Hind farms 1,250ha of prarie land of which 770ha is family owned plus the rest is rented. Of this 330ha is arable cropping with maize, soya grain or sorghum, alfalfa plus a mix of rye, triticale and turnips for grazing by 200 beef cattle. Grassland is used toproduce hay.

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