Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Day One at the SARE Conference: High Latitude No-Tillage

Bryce Wrigley: High-Latitude No-Tillage in Grain Production in Delta Junction

Bryce Wrigley owns and operates Wrigley Family Farms and the Alaska Flour Company in Delta Junction. He is the president of the Alaska Farm Bureau

Almost all grain production in Delta Junction is done with conventional tillage with fallowing and a rest crop. It looks all kempt and tidy, it's just dirt, and you can see things growing right away. But with no-till you can't see the new growth until the plants are about 10 inches high and get above the stubble. The no-till fields look kind of ratty and untidy, according to Wrigley. However, the problem with conventional tillage is it destroys the organic matter in the soil, and takes up soil in the wind. And wind is an issue in Delta.

After researching the type of drill to use, Wrigley and his wife, Jan, decided on the Cross-Slot (other companies seemed to all reference against this company).

Wrigley's reasons for doing no-till included: lack of labor requirement (his five kids had already left home), he wanted to maintain the value of his Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) lands which had been fallow for 25 years and so the carbon and quantity of organic matter in the soil, keep noxious weeds down, his area has a dry spell in spring & early summer which is counteracted by mulch on top of soil and old roots in the ground that hold moisture in the ground.

Challenges with no-till:
  • slower soil warmup
  • grass control is harder
  • pest control issues: for the first five years he found pests increase but then it stabilizes
  • maintains soil health
  • better moisture retention
  • no wind erosion
  • saves labor
  • less equipment
  • less fuel
  • fewer weeds
Even though emergence is a little later, the grain seems to catch up (the moisture in the ground seems to make the difference).

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