No-till wheat profitable for Virginia grower

Dean Stallings is a sixth generation farmer, and a good one. Always looking for ways to cut costs and boost profits, he was the first in his area of southeastern Virginia to go to a no-till system for wheat, soybeans and cotton.

“I started with no-till five years ago, and since that time, several of my farming neighbors have gone to similar systems,” Stallings says. “In technical terms, I’m not sure what no-till does, but it just seems to mellow the land. It seems to hold moisture better and make better usage of the fertilizer we put down,” he explains.

Stallings who farms 1,000 acres of cotton, soybeans, and wheat near Smithfield, Va., says no-till also saves him in fuel and labor costs. Competent, reliable farm labor, in particular, is tough to find, and no till reduces labor needs. With a near even break of 550 acres of cotton 450 acres of soybean-wheat double-cropped, his operation is ideally suited for a three-way rotation with cotton.

Isle of Wight County Virginia Extension Agent Glenn Rountree says growers in his area, including Stallings, adopted no-tillage or reduced-tillage systems for three primary reasons:

• Save fuel.

• Better moisture retention.

• Government programs that offset yield losses to the change over from conventional to conservation-tillage.

“We started conservation-tillage with a KMC strip-tillage rig with cotton. We came back to plant behind the KMC rig. Then two years ago, we hooked the planter and strip-tillage rig together,” Stallings says.

“We keep a mower right behind the picker to chop the cotton stalks. Typically, we finish picking cotton by the first of November. Then, we start planting wheat two to three weeks after we pick cotton. Just before we plant wheat, we go in with 30-70-120 fertilizer and spread it over the wheat. We combine a quart of glyphosate to take out weeds, primarily Italian ryegrass. If we can get weeds under control in the fall, it is less of a problem to deal with in the spring, he says.

We harvested some wheat this year that was around 90 bushels per acre. Back when we provided a perfect seed bed and ran too many pieces of equipment over the land, we never got yields close to 100 bushels per acre, Stallings says

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