Friday, April 09, 2010

The Trouble with Wind. (GCW 23-24).

So on the first day of October, having completed Rod's corn, it was necessary to get back to planting wheat. After cleaning out the drill, I had to load it the hard way:
You can see how much more weed growth there is over the season where the irrigation "spills over".

I took this picture because I had been talking to mom and dad earlier in the week about "pokes" (Anna's term). Mom and Dad (who both went shoeless in the summers as children) said that they didn't recall pokes being a problem when they were growing up, whereas now Anna would never want to go out of the house without some protection on her feet. Anyways I thought this image pretty clearly sums up the reason for puncture vine's successful takeover of Western Kansas in the years between Mom and Dad's childhood and Anna's:

And here we can see the dust building on this particularly windy day. This is really the weakest point in the three year no-till rotation I am in on my dryland. It has been 11 months since there was a crop on this field and the residue is starting to break down enough to leave the soil surface pretty exposed. The residue breaks down much faster when it is in contact with the soil, and so the areas which blow first are always the areas where the stubble got run over during harvest or later. If you have been out to help me with harvest, now you know why you got yelled at for not driving between the rows.
(You're welcome, Betsy) The stubble in this photo, however was packed down when I was spraying, as a result of the rows of corn in the circle (planted April 2009) not matching up with the rows of milo (planted May 2008). This problem has bugged my for quite a while which is why this year I started planting the corn at the outer pivot tower, so that the outside row of corn would match much more closely the outside path of the sprinkler i.e. this years outside field "boundary" should be "right." Hopefully I will be better able to match up the rows going forward. This problem on this day in particular prompted me to think for the first time that an RTK guidance (sub-inch steering accuracy, repeatable year to year) system might actually have some value outside of a strip-till cropping system (although it is still awfully hard to make the numbers jive on a farm as small as mine.)

Despite the deplorable conditions on the surface, there is still plenty of moisture for the wheat seeds. So cranking down the depth and up the closing wheel pressure a notch, (to protect against the seed blowing out,) I got back to work.

When I was done with this half of the field , I did find quite a few spots where the seed had blown out of the furrows:
Why did this seed blow out? First of all, any time you disturb the soil with tillage, including the minimal tillage necessary to actually put the seeds in the ground, you are destroying the soils structure. So every where the seed disc has run there is a strip of relatively loose soil which can blow out, particularly where it runs parallel to the wind direction. Secondly, one problem with the 1590 drill is that the gauge wheels, by running on the side of discs, effectively tramp down whatever stubble is left, eliminating what wind protection you had prior to planting from the standing stubble.
I know also that any conventional tillage farmer looking at this will tell you that they don't have this problem when they plant with a hoe drill. This is because the hoe drill makes ridges between the rows, effectively sheltering the seed from the wind. While it sure makes one feel good at the time, I would point out that all of the moisture lost out of those little ridges is worth way more money in terms of future wheat yield than what I might have to spend buying seed to replant with.What I did do was some preventative over seeding, going back over the areas blowing the worst with perpendicular rows to the wind.

The next morning got off to a great start when one of the new augers stopped working in the middle of filling the seed truck and needed some attention. This was actually a good thing, because it inconvenienced me, rather than one of our customers.

This morning I got to load the drill the easy way:

It was also a much nicer day to work.

Finally, we have a before and after shot.


jmlo said...

I don't remember wearing shoes either--but I do remember the occasionally run in with the "pokes."
Pokes is bad folks...that's no jokes...

linda jean said...

excellent post.