Standing on a mixture of barley stubble and newly planted sugar beets, Jamie Selting, Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) district conservationist in Sidney, Mont., is promoting no-till farming practices. “The only thing they’ve [the landowners] done is come back this spring, no-till, and planted right into the stubble,” he said, referencing the large field he was standing upon. “The big benefit of having the stubble here is it protects the sugar beet plant when it’s small,” he added.
The landowners Selting is referring to are leading Richland County, Mont. in improving soil health practices. Years ago the family learned about no-till farming practices while they were looking for ways to reduce their input costs. Seven years later, they are seeing the benefits.
“They tackled the tillage, reduced tillage operations, and increased their equipment life,” Selting said. However, he says the most important benefit of no-till practices is the stubble because it keeps the soil intact. “Having it creates a nice microenvironment for the sugar beet plant,” he said. “The land just doesn’t blow anymore. The replanting has pretty much gone away since they went to the minimum no-till.”
According to the producer and the sugar beet factory, the yields here are comparable to any of the other tillage systems in the valley. “They’re [the landowners] showing that their bottom lines are better, their yields are the same,” Selting said.
To get these results, Selting said the landowner spent time learning and improving. “You have to go through those processes to convert to no-till, and it’s tough,” Selting said.
For those who are looking to begin no-till farming practices, Selting has a bit of advice. “Make sure you know your tillage equipment, and that you have the right equipment to do the job,” he said. As for the landowners, Selting said they have started do even more to improve soil health on their farm.
“They’re happy where they’re at on the tillage part,” he said. “[Now] they’re starting to do more intensive soil testing, leaf tissue sample testing, and trying to calibrate and figure out what’s going on nutrient wise.”
More about No-Till Sugar Beets
No-till sugar beets reduce inputs, increase yields (PDF; 3.77 MB)