Farmer Focus: No-till brings weed control challenges

The dry weather and fire threat is a distant memory now. The past six weeks have been very wet, with about 15in of rain falling on my farm in that time.

In eastern Kansas, we have dodged most of the really bad weather, with most tornadoes confined to the central and western parts of the state so far.

Western Kansas also had an April snowstorm, with one town reporting 19in. As usual, there is all sorts of speculation about damage to the wheat. My guess is when harvest comes it won’t be that bad.

See also: Read more from our Arable Farmer Focus writers

Field work has progressed slowly as cool weather has slowed the growth of what has been planted.

This year 100% of the crops grown on my farm will be no-till.

I didn’t necessarily plan it that way, but it has turned out to be the case. All my burndown has been applied and fields look clean at this point. My corn is up and looks good other than the spots that drowned out.

Finding the right mix of herbicides to kill the weeds we have is becoming harder and harder. In my opinion the overwhelming drawback of no-till is the total reliance on chemical weed control.

Cover crop conundrum

Cover crops are considered by some to be part of the answer, I have a hard time justifying planting a £50-£95/ha cover mix only to kill it later on.

On fields I can graze, cover crops are definitely the way to go, on fields that cannot be grazed I just don’t believe economics justify a cover crop.

However, if it continues to become increasingly difficult to kill weeds, we will either have to go back to tillage or perhaps use wheat for a break crop – or both.

Some of the cheapest broad-leaved weed herbicides are labelled for wheat only. If we could just get yields like UK farmers do, going back to wheat would be a no-brainer.

Because we rotate with spring crops we usually do not have a grass problem in wheat.

Having battled cancer this past winter and wondering if I would even be around for spring planting, all I can say about weeds is there are bigger problems in the world by far.

With regards to resistant weeds, as long as I am around to see how things turn out, resistant weeds don’t bother me much anymore either.

Brian Hind farms 1,250ha of prairie land, of which 960ha is family-owned and the rest rented. Of this, 330ha is arable cropping with maize, soya, grain sorghum, alfalfa plus a mix of rye, triticale and turnips for grazing his herd of 400 beef cattle. Grassland is used to produce hay.

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