Our I-Three Corps project is on schedule, YEAH!!! Our team, six members from three states, have been diligently working on the project and nearing completion. To date, our team has finalized the evaluation method and questions for the project, identified two producers (Montana and Nebraska) and two citizen scientists (Montana) to interview and video for the project, completed the filming, drafted two fact sheets and one other blog post. We are excited with the progress especially since we had difficulties finding producers willing to film and experienced scheduling conflicts.
The film crew spent an awesome day interviewing and filming the final producer for the projects. We met with Greg Schlemmer outside of Fromberg, Montana, to tour and understand his no till farming practice under sprinkler and furrow irrigation. This was an incredible experience and opportunity to see a producer adapting his management strategies to rather arid growing conditions. Greg farms around 3,500 feet elevation with an annual precipitation of 11 inches with clay soils. The farm has access to a constant water supply out of the Clark’s Fork River, which they can irrigate from around April until freeze, which is normally the end of October.
Greg has been able to increase his organic matter from 2% to 3.5% while still growing his standard crop rotation of silage corn, sugar beets, and barley. The increase in organic matter is supported through the normal crops as well as companion cropping soybean with the corn and planting a cover crop after barley. The operation has been cultivated for three years under no till practices and has already experienced many benefits from this new management style, such as: decreasing fertilizer inputs, decreasing fuel usage by two-thirds, increasing yields and sugar content in sugar beets, almost eliminating soil erosion, less stress to plants during hot periods due to increased soil moisture, and other benefits.
Why Is This Important
Greg captured it best. If no till were not economical for his operation then he would not do it. Soil conservation methods are gaining acceptance in the Midwest but have not taken hold in western states due to the difference in climate, crops/market, and other reasons. Highlighting a no till operation in an arid climate with similar crops will stimulate more interest in the practices, especially if it is economical.
Is no till for every operation? The general consensus is “No”, especially for an operation with furrow irrigation. However, Greg’s operation indicates that no till can even work with furrow irrigation. Learning from early adopters that are pushing the knowledge of what is possible can assist agriculture communities to be more competitive, more economically stable, and increase overall operation and community resiliency.
What a great experience!!
Image 1. Corn field at Greg Schlemmer’s farm near Fromberg, MT. Photo Credit. David Keto
Image 2. No-till sugar beets in furrowed irrigated field at Greg Schlemmer’s farm near Fromberg, MT. Photo Credit. David Keto