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No-till yields as good
The key to success at no-till? That would be the planter, contends David Schnoor of Scribner, Nebraska. His assertion is based on 12 years of experience in no-till farming with his brother, Brian, and two sons, Anthony and Randy.
“The condition of the disk openers is key to a good planter. They should be well maintained and replaced when needed,” Schnoor says. “We also attached after-market scrapers to the disk openers. Our Schlagel closing wheels, with a spider wheel design, have eliminated sidewall compaction. We also replaced the metering system with one manufactured by Precision Planting that allows us to use a mixture of seed sizes.”
The payoff from having a well-equipped and well-maintained planter is higher yields even in dry conditions like this past summer and especially during 2012. “In 2012, our corn yielded 100 to 120 bushels per acre; the beans yielded 40 bushels, and that’s without any irrigation,” Schnoor says. “Some more conventional farmers around here got little to no yield in 2012.”
Reduced operating costs
The other payoff to no-till is reduced operating costs. “You don’t need a large four-wheel-drive tractor, and neither do you need to go over the ground as many times, which certainly saves fuel,” Schnoor says. “I’d say 80% to 90% of the farmers around here now use no-till. A few others use minimum tillage.”
The Schnoor operation runs with a 50/50 corn and soybean rotation. The Schnoors will plant soybeans into corn stubble even with heavy-residue conditions.
Planting beans in corn stubble may not look the best, but it works, he says. “We burn down the cornstalk ground prior to planting and follow up post-emergence with glyphosate. Prior to planting corn, we spray nitrogen, 2,4-D, and a postemergence chemical. Then we follow up with an application of Liberty herbicide. When the corn is knee-high, we broadcast nitrogen” using a pull-type sprayer with an 80-foot boom.
Recently, Schnoor has been employing Micro-Essentials SZ, a general fertilizer supplied by Central Valley Ag of Snyder, Nebraska. All of the elements in the fertilizer are contained in each granule to provide more uniform coverage of micronutrients. That uniformity is crucial in no-till conditions.
Expanded into cattle feeding
Schnoor also feeds cattle and has recently expanded that operation with the purchase of a commercial feedlot. This allows him to boost numbers from feeding 550 head to about 2,000 during the past year.
Some farmers may find it difficult to make the adjustment to no-till farming, but Schnoor has made an even greater adjustment.
After 20 years of service, he retired from the Air Force where he was a combat controller. Schnoor went from a high-intensity setting to sitting on a lonely tractor seat, but he says he enjoys the solitude.