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Friday, February 12, 2010

Why everyone should buy a John Deere no-till drill!

I have returned from the wheat grower's meeting. I could go on and on about storage and rail cars and ships and wheat and more wheat but I'll keep this short at I am spending quality time with my family.
The last presenter was the wheat breeder fellow from OSU. For all you midwestcentric people that would be Oregon State U. He mentioned no-till. OSU has built a no-till drill and they are going to study no-tilling wheat in Oregon. Several farmers spoke up about the difficulty of no-tilling wheat into dry packed fields in Oregon at the end of the summer. Another fellow made an exclamation about no-tilling into 100 bushel wheat straw. I almost made a comment but then I thought a moment, and decided to just keep quiet. No one really wanted to hear from me. Frankly I don't care if they think I'm a smart fellow. They all want to believe that their John Deere no-till drills are the best in the world so screw them. Let them think that. I only need four good customers to make my payment and I've got them. Let them spend $300 per row to get Mr. Green Jeans drills to work. I don't give a rip... So I said nothing.
Here are my thoughts...
After close to a decade of experimentation by regular farmers with no-tilling wheat into fescue fields Oregon State is going to do some tests. This is funny because...The grass seed market is basically dead at this time. If there are no fescue fields to no-till there is not that much point in researching ways to no-till into them. Other rotations are not so difficult as other crops don't require the extreme down pressure to plant.
It would be great if someone came up with some good no-till rotations for our area but it is not really that hard to figure out.
AND-I've successfully no-tilled into fields that a John Deere drill failed in the same conditions the previous year. I have successfully no-till into waist high wheat stubble, triticale stubble, wheat on wheat, wheat into oats, oats into wheat, peas, clover into heavy sweet corn residue, annual ryegrass into solid packed and dry ground. I've planted into mud, through packed irrigation roads, frozen ground, clover fields, alfalfa fields, hillsides, whatever...and most of it worked.
I've got a Great Plains with their turbo-till coulter, followed by their leading edge double disk opener, followed by a spring harrow. It just works. Doesn't look so pretty, it ain't a John Deere, but it works.
The more John Deere failures, the more loyal my customers are so I hope everyone who is going to buy a no-till drill buys a John Deere.
In my humble opinion. Watch me have a huge failure this spring...
 Update: After thinking about this for a couple days I think I may have gotten a few details wrong. I know OSU has been involved with some testing with no-till wheat. I am just out of the research loop. I think I just look for negative things to post about...


  1. I learned long ago that most of what comes out of any state university (and most others) is designed to appease corporate donors and perpetuate the status quo. It doesn't matter whether it's about agriculture, forestry, or something else, it's mostly all worthless to the little guy trying to make a living.

  2. The one thing that was impressed on my small mind during this whole adventure was that everyone sees the world through their own little fishbowl. The John Deere lovers see everything through a lemon yellow haze. The union workers see it all as the big mean bossman trying to take what is theirs, the management see's the union as only caring about high pay and shorter hours. And the farmers see it all in terms of their own little kingdom of one or two counties.
    I think the university folks have a hard time seeing beyond their own department walls. The seed breeder said he didn't pay a lot of attention to soils as that was another department. I've found soil type makes a pretty big difference in the FAILURE of no-till and would think that would play a major part in the plant breeders program. But, perhaps he was joking. I'm not all that sharp and I've got my own strange little fishbowl.

  3. Its a no till world around here and I am kind of a fish out of water with my older more conventional style of tillage and planting. Its working for me so I am in no hurry to change.

  4. Ralph,
    I have mixed feelings about no-till. I think if you maintain your pH and organic matter and if you farm at the right times to avoid compaction and you can afford it, conventional tillage is probably the better way to go. I think you get better yields.
    I think people no-till because they can't get across the thousands of acres they farm any other way. We started no-tilling because it is very hard to get rid of the sod in fescue seed fields when you work them. If you kill the fescue and then plant wheat or oats the fescue will break down by the time it you are ready to work the ground again. We kind of went on from there.
    We don't have the wide equipment to really do conventional tillage effectively. And we are getting government money to do no-till. That is the key. So, I'm not going to tell you that you are farming wrong when it is working for you. I'm going to say-good job, way to go, keep up the good work!

  5. im an Ar rice/soybean farmer we no till or min till because as long as we dont rut up the previouse fall we dont have to turn up any blue or gray gumbo and try to get it beat down into shape to plant.

    1. Sounds like an excellent plan to me. Thanks for your comment. This post gets a lot of hits even though it is not all that great a post. Kind of a rant from me being annoyed.

  6. Little late to reply but your logic doesn't make you sound any better than the JD lovers. I'm pretty sure if you compared a great plains with a no till Coulter to a true no till JD the deere would win 9/10 times. The great plains is nothing more than a conventional drill with a add on. I've saw places in a field that are packed like a road and the JD had no problems planting and got a stand that was just as good as the non packed areas of the field

    1. I have compared a JD to a Great Plains. I like the Great Plains for what I am doing. If you are happy with your John Deere then stick with it.
      I have discussed the specific reasons why I prefer the coulter cart/v-opener drill to the cleverly designed JD lift and slice method in other posts.
      I will point at that at the time I wrote the post I was planting 1000 plus acres per year for my neighbors in all sorts of conditions.
      Your Mileage May Vary...

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  8. SO...after many years after writing this--are your opinions the same? I am about to get into no-tilling...wise folks learn from those have learned from the hard school of experience. Is the best setup a GP with spring harrow behind? Does the spring accumulate alot of duff?

    1. I really like my GP drill.
      The spring harrow can leave little piles of straw. However You can adjust it to minimize that problem. If you don't mow before planting it works better.
      I have a set of wide press wheels that I use instead of the narrow wheels in loose soil.
      I would like to buy new GP drill but I don't do as much custom planting as I used to do. Farming is not the same around here as it was ten years ago.


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