10.04.2012

Crop production is profitable

110% of profitability can be normal for crop production. Normal, but not the limit. Under conventional tillage the biggest share of the profit is «consumed» by production costs. A successful farmer is the one who harvests optimum yield with the least costs.

Conservation farming.

No-Till system is an economical model of crop production. When creating this technology the specialists took zero-tillage as a foundation, devoted more time to optimization of production processes and as a result they made crop production manageable, predictable and economically efficient.

Today 80% of yield depends on weather. With No-Till weather influence on crop roduction efficiency is reduced to 20%. The rest 80% are controlled by technology and management united into a common system.

No-Till system is the most sensible approach to crop production from ecological and economical stand point. Soil disturbance is excluded, at that. The technology is based on direct seeding into crop residues with minimum soil disturbance.

Crop residues

Transition to mini-till and then to No-till starts at harvest, when crushed crop residues are evenly distributed across the field. As a result a soil cover is created which resists to soil and water erosion, ensures water accumulation, prevents proliferation of weeds, favors microbial activity and helps to restore soil fertility and increase crop yields.

Functions of crop residues:

  • Water accumulation;
  • Soil protection from overheating during dry periods;
  • Protection of agricultural crops from weeds;
  • Reduction of water erosion;
  • Restoration of soil fertile layer;
  • A possibility to avoid fallow, which is inefficient and not profitable.

Crop rotation

A special attention in No-Till system is given to crop rotations. Crop sequencing is only a part of a crop rotation. Multiple factors are influencing selection of a crop rotation.

Factors influencing selection of a crop rotation:

  • Water use
  • Snow catching capacity
  • Disease organisms
  • Life cycle of insects
  • Phytotoxicity
  • Weed control
  • Ability to sequence application of different herbicides
  • Potential profitability
  • Required machinery
  • Optimum row spacing
  • Time windows for seeding and harvest (work load)
  • Limiting and stimulating factors of agricultural programs
  • Fit for the market

Every farmer should select a crop rotation according to his(her) needs. But there is a list of factors that works under any conditions: a principle of annual sequencing of grain and broadleaf crops as well as sequencing of warm season crops and cold season crops. Another thing that should be kept in mind is the effect of previous crop on the following crop, in other words allelopathy and synergism.

Functions of a crop rotation:

  • Suppression of weed growth;
  • Reduction of crop diseases;
  • Optimization of nutrients and water use;
  • Distribution of machinery work load;
  • Increase of potential profitability of a farm.

Cover crops

Cover crops are grown to increase the level of soil organic matter, stimulate production of soil nitrogen and microbial activity, suppress weeds growth, improve soil structure, reduce leaching of nutrients and erosion levels, catch snow and accumulate water.
Cover crops are an efficient tool of conservation agriculture, if they are wisely integrated into a crop rotation.

Functions of cover crops:

  • Increase of soil organic level;
  • Reduction of fertilizers costs;
  • Accumulation of nitrogen;
  • Improvement of water infiltration;
  • Improvement of soil health;
  • Increase of survivability of agricultural crops and thus the yield;
  • Weeds control;
  • Reduction of herbicide use.

Technological operations

Harvest

Transition to conservation agriculture starts at harvest. This is the period when the foundation of conservation agriculture is established, i.e. a layer of surface residues. There 3 success criteria: height of cut (10-20 cm) depending on crop type and seeding dates, optimum cut of straw (less than 5 cm) and even distribution across the field.

Using a 9-meter header and a grain cart which can receive grain from a moving combine, the specialists of Agro-Soyuz managed to reduce the combine’s idle time, number of service vehicles and increase field coefficient of machinery capacity from 0.65 to 0.95.

Cultivation

Cultivation should be used only during transition from conventional agriculture to No-Till. Specialists recommend to use a step-by-step approach to zero-tillage through a mini-till, when moldboard plowing is not used, but cultivation is still used. The latter is necessary to level the field surface, while maintaining the natural soil structure and to control weeds during establishment of a layer of crop residues.

An 18-meter cultivator was used at the model farm to ensure quality of all other technological operations and to maintain 80% of residues on the soil surface. This cultivator was used to perform soil tillage at different depths, level field surfaces and maintain the natural structure of the soil.

Cultivation at 15-20 degrees angle to the previous pass will ensure efficient leveling of the field. Capacity of machines is increased due to machinery width and high ground speed.

Seeding

Direct seeding into crop residues creates minimum soil disturbance, prevents erosion and reduces the risk of water loss.

A seeding complex TURBOSEM manufactured by Agro-Soyuz performs three technological operations during one pass: delivery of seeds together with starter mineral fertilizers and packing. The working width of the machine will save time, reduce production costs and soil compaction. Use of liquid fertilizers improves availability for a crop and take-up of nutrients.

Protection

When protecting agricultural crops from diseases, pests and weeds, it is necessary to ensure maximum coverage of the leaf surface and distribute chemical mixtures evenly. The best results are achieved if the operation is performed timely, keeping the air temperature, the wind speed etc. in mind.

Wide (27 meters) self-propelled sprayer «Haggie» can handle up to 1,000 hectares per day protecting agricultural crops from diseases, pests and weeds.

It can also perform application of liquid fertilizers on vegetation and desiccation of sunflower.

10 advantages of NO-TILL:

  • Resource saving (fuel, fertilizers, labor, time, reduction of depreciation costs)
  • Improvement of profitability of agriculture
  • Maintenance and restoration of the soil tilth (improvement of its chemical, physical and biological properties, increase of soil organic matter level)
  • Reduction or elimination of soil erosion (no need to spend additional money to solve this problem)
  • Ecological management of weeds
  • Accumulation and storage of water in the soil
  • Reduction of yield dependence on weather conditions
  • Increase of crop yield
  • Improvement of grain quality (ecologically clean product)
  • Culture of farming — development of special culture of interaction with environment.