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David Holubec and Paul Minzenmayer switched to no-till production techniques for wheat and rotation crops years ago and continue to fine tune operations to improve efficiency and profit potential. They discussed production techniques at the recent Big Country Wheat Conference in Abilene, Texas.
Rigid rotation schedule
He stays on a fairly rigid rotation schedule, so he plans to keep wheat acreage about the same in 2010. “We like to rotate away from cotton root rot,” he said. “I like to plant wheat two years and then cotton.”
Production demands for cotton and wheat sometimes overlap. “We’re planting cotton and combining wheat at the same time.”
They save time and energy with reduced tillage.
Holubec cut out a lot of trips across his fields by converting to no-till production. “We used to plow every time we got a sprinkle of rain,” he said. “Now, we just make three trips, once in the summer to plow the stubble, then we chisel and field cultivate in front of the planter.”
They always apply herbicides after wheat harvest.
Stubble fields typically lay out nearly a year before Minzenmayer plants cotton. He likes the organic matter wheat residue puts back in the soil. “By the time we plant cotton, not much straw is left, but I like to get as much organic matter as possible.”
New combines scatter straw better than older machines. “I like to keep all the straw on the field, just not in windrows.”
Holubec said routine soil testing is essential. “We have to know what we need,” he said. “I get fertilizer down in September or October. I like to do it early.”
He’s applied fertilizer before planting every year but one for the last 30 years. That one year followed a crop disaster and plants had used up very little of the soil nutrients. “Applying fertilizer in the fall is necessary to get wheat off to a good start,” he said.
Minzenmayer is thinking about making pre-plant fertilization a routine part of his operation. “I think we’ve been hurt by getting nitrogen out late,” he said. “Last year we yield mapped every field and our goal is to use variable rate fertilizer application.”
Holubec said precision planting is critical. “A uniform stand is essential. Skips, misses and doubles hurt yield potential.”
Minzenmayer just bought a new John Deere planter to improve stands in stubble. “It handles trash well,” he said.
Holubec used to rely on only one variety but now grows several to spread risks. “I usually plant early, medium and late maturity wheat,” he said. This year he planted Doans, Tam 203, Tam 112, Jackpot, Coronado, Duster and Greer. “Greer is a new variety and has good potential,” Holubec said. “These new varieties are as good as or better than the old ones.”
They plant later for grain production than for grazing. Minzenmayer likes to plant wheat for grain in October and November but may start planting grazing wheat as early as late September.
“We were hurt by Hessian fly about 10 years ago,” he said. “That convinced everybody to wait until October to plant wheat for grain.”