Limited moisture conditions are just a fact of life for farmers in the Oklahoma Panhandle. Success requires adapting, adjusting and sometimes accepting that water resources will not be adequate to meet yield goals for a particular year.

“With 16 to 18 inches of average rainfall, we have to stretch moisture as far as we can to make a crop,” says Bob Dietrick, grain sorghum and wheat farmer from Tyrone, Okla.

Dietrick shared some of the practices he follows to get the most out of his limited resources during the recent No-till Oklahoma Conference in Norman.

A grain sorghum, wheat and fallow rotation offers the best option for his operation. “It has to be profitable,” he said. “If it’s not, it’s not worth doing.”

He adjusts to conditions. “I tend to plant grain sorghum for a lower population. It’s an adaptable plant, so 60,000 to 65,000 heads per acre is optimum for us. I like to plant thin and let sorghum flex to conditions.”

Tillering makes up for the lower seeding rate.

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Starting clean is also an advantage. “A weed will use as much water as a crop plant,” he said. Weed control starts following wheat harvest. “We keep the wheat clean and spray after harvest.”

He prefers to use as little tillage as possible but does not rule out tillage as needed. “Tumble windmill grass is the one thing that keeps me from being 100 percent no-till,” he said. “I may plow with sweeps twice prior to planting wheat, late June or July and again in September. I don’t like tillage but sometimes I’m forced into it.”