Hineman Farms operates over 10,000 acres of dryland farm ground, located primarily in Lane County, KS. Primary crops include winter wheat, sorghum, and corn. Occasionally Hineman Farms has planted cover crops and other specialty crops such as yellow field peas, based on environmental and economic factors. A portion of this land is owned by various family members. Daily operations are the responsibility of D&A Farms, a partnership between Don and Andy Hineman. Over the last few years D&A Farms has spent a lot of time at progressive farming conferences learning new ideas to increase profits. Many of the conferences have focused on sustainable agriculture, no-till, cover crops, and crop rotation economics.Slowly and gradually many of the concepts are being adopted into our current farming operation and we continue to learn and adapt. There are many new exciting ideas and strategies that give us optimism for the future.
Improving productivity and profitability are a continual goal for D&A Farms. One of the leading trends that has proven to increase both profitability and productivity is the conversion from tillage to chemical no-till. Many farmers have made a complete switch from reduced or minimum tillage to complete no-till practices.
After thoroughly studying the pros and cons of this trend, D&A Farms concluded that full chemical no-till is the best farming practice for the future and for sustainable agriculture.
“Grain yields of wheat and grain sorghum increased with decreased tillage intensity in a wheat-sorghum-fallow (WSF) rotation. Averaged over the past 10 years, no-till (NT) wheat yields were 6 bu/a greater than reduced tillage and 9 bu/a greater than conventional tillage.” They go on to explain that, “The yield benefit from reduced tillage was greater for grain sorghum than wheat. Grain sorghum yields for RT averaged 10 bu/a more than CT, whereas NT averaged 31 bu/a more than RT .”
D&A Farms has converted all of the ground they own to full no-till and believe it is in their landowners’ best interest to do the same thing. It should be noted that converting to full no-till does have a few drawbacks that we should all be prepared for. The cost of liquid fertilizer and larger amounts of herbicide increase input costs when compared to conventional tillage. Initial yield increases are very rare for the first 1-3 years of no till, however, the long term average yield increase more than balances these initial hurdles and the economics end up positive, as Troy Dumler KSU ag economist shows;
“Even as we encounter herbicide resistant weed and therefore, more costly herbicide, a no-till WSF rotation proved to be more profitable than any other rotation utilizing tillage. While more costly herbicide reduced profits by up to $30/acre, a no-till WSF rotation still still proved to be nearly $50/acre more profitable than reduced tillage and almost $75/acre more profitable than a conventional tillage rotation.”Adopting no-till conservation practices also align with efforts at the NRCS office and improve our efforts towards sustainable agriculture. As good stewards of the ground, D&A Farms currently operates under the NRCS Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) . The CSP Program provides some assistance with implementing the following tactics on ground farmed by D&A Farms; 1) fuel and energy savings by reducing fuel burn, 2) improving air quality by using low-drift spray nozzles and spray equipment, 3) applying fertilizer more accurately with precision agriculture, 4) introducing some cover crops into the crop rotation to improve soil tilth, and 5) converting to full non-tillage practices.
We view the program as a joint movement by all involved to improve soil conservation and health and hope that our landowners will agree with the same movement. In the long run, we truly believe that these conservation tactics will improve our land’s health, profitability, and long term sustainability for both tenants and landowners.