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No-Till/No-Herbicide: Is it possible?

lazy_turtle

Member
Hey all,

I bought a farm last November. Some of the areas I want to plot haven’t been touched in 30+ years, so I’ve been going back and forth on if I never till or never use herbicides.

Is it possible to do neither with much success??

If you had to choose between no-till and no herbicides, which would you choose?

I was about to give up on the dream of doing neither, but as if it was a sign, a random grass fire hit my farm and almost completely cleared the plots. See pic. Is there anything I can throw down now to suppress weeds?
 

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Hey all,

I bought a farm last November. Some of the areas I want to plot haven’t been touched in 30+ years, so I’ve been going back and forth on if I never till or never use herbicides.

Is it possible to do neither with much success??

If you had to choose between no-till and no herbicides, which would you choose?

I was about to give up on the dream of doing neither, but as if it was a sign, a random grass fire hit my farm and almost completely cleared the plots. See pic. Is there anything I can throw down now to suppress weeds?
Regenative ag is basically what you are describing. Grant woods has mastered it. You would need some tools like crimper and no till drill to make it work. Planting spring rye isn't "normal " but it has excellent allopathic properties. You can then plant fall blend later this summer and crimp the rye.
 
Regenative ag is basically what you are describing. Grant woods has mastered it. You would need some tools like crimper and no till drill to make it work. Planting spring rye isn't "normal " but it has excellent allopathic properties. You can then plant fall blend later this summer and crimp the rye.
Yeah, I’ve watched a lot of those videos! I’ve just been wondering how to actually get started without the initial use of herbicide or tilling. Especially in some of the areas the fire didn’t get.

Do you think rye would be better than something like oats or buckwheat this time of year?
 
Anything is possible. But it maybe difficult to achieve your goals. You have a huge seed bank just waiting to express itself as soon as you peel back the layers. The fire pealed back the first layer.
Take small steps such as reduced tillage or reduced herbicide applications. Small steps.
Grant woods has scaled down the soil health movement from large scale agriculture. His approach may not be economical but economics and deer don't match....lol
Work towards your goal but know there will be successes and failures along the way.
 
Yeah, I’ve watched a lot of those videos! I’ve just been wondering how to actually get started without the initial use of herbicide or tilling. Especially in some of the areas the fire didn’t get.

Do you think rye would be better than something like oats or buckwheat this time of year?
I would use herbicides to get going and reduce as you get established. I am not sure how successful going cold turkey on it would be frankly. I know that was Grant Woods approach. Same thing with fertilizer. Get it right to start and then let the process take over.

Buckwheat would be a good option.
 
Your first battle will be with whatever is growing there predominantly. If it's a cool-season perennial, especially. Otherwise, what IBH says. Dense mats of vegetation from crimping, understanding allelopathic affects and crop rotations will be key to fighting weeds. You might have to mow a lot to get ahead of the annual seed bank. Interesting endeavor!

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Herbicide only is very doable of course. I’d rather start there as it’s your huge advancement on soil. That alone is a game changer when stop tilling.
The other thing with herbicides…, if someone wanted me to make them a ONE PASS cocktail- I could. One time spraying & done. That’s a lot better than 3 sprays of course.

To utilize covers & crimpers….. IMO- a few years of aggressive weed control with herbicides will help. Reduce weed seeds.
Then the year u “try no herbicides” - YEAR ONE…. Be ready to use them the second it has issues. After that- figure out your mistake & retry next year with adjustments. Again- always have herbicides as rescue. I’m gonna guess by year 3-4 u will then be herbicide free.

What u planting BTW? Big difference depending on what u plant.

Last 2 side notes: u will have less weed pressure with proper PH. If u have low PH u will absolutely have more issues with foxtail. Or pigweed, wh, marestail, etc.
2nd: drainage needs to be corrected or u gonna have issues in a host of ways. -can break up compaction with cover crops. -can use drainage tile. -proper ph will also help with drainage. Watch for areas like this. Obvious but never drive on ground when wet. I see stuff like this on almost every single farm!!!

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Short version...I would "cheat" and use herbicides at first to get control of things and get things started in the right direction. You can then work towards backing down on herbicide use over time, but I think if you go "cold turkey" you will struggle and then ultimately break down and use herbicides. Just my opinion, I admire your goals.
 
Herbicide only is very doable of course. I’d rather start there as it’s your huge advancement on soil. That alone is a game changer when stop tilling.
The other thing with herbicides…, if someone wanted me to make them a ONE PASS cocktail- I could. One time spraying & done. That’s a lot better than 3 sprays of course.

To utilize covers & crimpers….. IMO- a few years of aggressive weed control with herbicides will help. Reduce weed seeds.
Then the year u “try no herbicides” - YEAR ONE…. Be ready to use them the second it has issues. After that- figure out your mistake & retry next year with adjustments. Again- always have herbicides as rescue. I’m gonna guess by year 3-4 u will then be herbicide free.

What u planting BTW? Big difference depending on what u plant.

Last 2 side notes: u will have less weed pressure with proper PH. If u have low PH u will absolutely have more issues with foxtail. Or pigweed, wh, marestail, etc.
2nd: drainage needs to be corrected or u gonna have issues in a host of ways. -can break up compaction with cover crops. -can use drainage tile. -proper ph will also help with drainage. Watch for areas like this. Obvious but never drive on ground when wet. I see stuff like this on almost every single farm!!!

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Thanks for all of this! It sounds like herbicide might be necessary here. Just thought I’d hear everyone opinion since herbicide or tilling hasn’t directly been applied to this soil in decades and the organic matter was almost 7% in some areas compared to 2-3% in our pasture a couple hundred yards away

My latest plan for this 4 acres before getting the idea of no-till AND no herbicide was:

RR soybeans this spring to get weeds under control. We have a planter.

This fall:

Mow strip around outside edge of entire plot and broadcast clover and a cereal

Mow few strips and broadcast brassicas in mid August

Several weeks later broadcast heavy rye. At least in standing beans , maybe everywhere.

I just didn’t know if this fire unlocked any alternate route that could get me away from herbicides. Definitely open to other suggestions.

We just got a few inches of rain right before this picture was taken. The tracks were from the fire department when they put the fire out…
 
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You could also try a fall burn and then drill in some winter rye grain if cool season grasses aren't prevalent.

Herbicides would definitely make the start up much easier.
 
I probably go against the grain of the herbicide plot trends. I use tillage but prefer not to use herbicides. This is easy to implement. Discs and cultipackers are easy to come by.

Weeds in plots and discing early successional areas allow a variety of flowers, insects and young poults/rabbits/quail to flourish. Just a bonus to a (main) goal of deer habitat. Some prefer not to spray what is being eaten by these animals, but again a preference. Coincidence small Game populations have plummeted since the introduction of Round Up? (Where did all the weeds and brushy fence rows go?). And I hate weeds in my plots as much as the next guy.

Tillage / No Til is a hot topic in the plot industry right now and it’s a mixed bag across the board - And painting with a VERY broad brush. Yes, frequent tillage is “bad” but a single tillage annually? I will argue is not. What about vertical tillage? Isn’t that the same as coulters going through the ground? How deep are those row cleaners anyway? Strip Til? Min Til? What happens if I use a lawn aerator in my yard - If no one is looking?

We brag about being No Til but then blanket spray our properties with carcinogens, so who’s really winning here? What if I told you I’m increasing my organic matter and yield annually while recycling nutrients USING (infrequent) tillage? (*Gasp).

Personally, as long as I get the results I’m looking for, I see no need to shell out $20,000 for a roller crimper and a good quality drill. My disc and cultipacker do the job very well. And no, not going to plot with a lawnmower instead.. ;)

OP - Great soil there. With base saturations of Ca over 60% with good Mg and OM levels you could grow 200+ bpa corn on that soil. Maybe a touch of lime added to P1 and you’ve got great ground for years.
 
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I probably go against the grain of the herbicide plot trends. I use tillage but prefer not to use herbicides. This is easy to implement. Discs and cultipackers are easy to come by.

Weeds in plots and discing early successional areas allow a variety of flowers, insects and young poults/rabbits/quail to flourish. Just a bonus to a (main) goal of deer habitat. Some prefer not to spray what is being eaten by these animals, but again a preference. Coincidence small Game populations have plummeted since the introduction of Round Up? (Where did all the weeds and brushy fence rows go?). And I hate weeds in my plots as much as the next guy.

Tillage / No Til is a hot topic in the plot industry right now and it’s a mixed bag across the board - And painting with a VERY broad brush. Yes, frequent tillage is “bad” but a single tillage annually? I will argue is not. What about vertical tillage? Isn’t that the same as coulters going through the ground? How deep are those row cleaners anyway? Strip Til? Min Til? What happens if I use a lawn aerator in my yard - If no one is looking?

We brag about being No Til but then blanket spray our properties with carcinogens, so who’s really winning here? What if I told you I’m increasing my organic matter and yield annually while recycling nutrients USING (infrequent) tillage? (*Gasp).

Personally, as long as I get the results I’m looking for, I see no need to shell out $20,000 for a roller crimper and a good quality drill. My disc and cultipacker do the job very well. And no, not going to plot with a lawnmower instead.. ;)

OP - Great soil there. With base saturations of Ca over 60% with good Mg and OM levels you could grow 200+ bpa corn on that soil. Maybe a touch of lime added to P1 and you’ve got great ground for years.
Thanks for this response!

What does your yearly disking and planting rotation look like without herbicides? How would you get starting on mine this spring if I go that route? I have a tractor and disk.
 
Thanks for this response!

What does your yearly disking and planting rotation look like without herbicides? How would you get starting on mine this spring if I go that route? I have a tractor and disk.

For fall plots - Disc, seed, pack. Aug 1 Brassicas vs Sept 1 Dbltree Mix - Can see my (and many others great) posts in Dbltree section. If you only have a good box frame disc (with adjustable gangs), it’s easier to turn everything over, seed and then straighten the gangs and run over once more. Fall plots seldom have many weed issues unless fertilized heavy. Especially the later cereal grain plantings.

Following spring - Frost seed red / ladino / Alice clovers into the fall plots and keep mowed in nice clover field all year. Then flip flop your plots and disc, plant in fall all over again.

For summer plots (Milo, beans, millet etc), I typically do mixes and leave thru the fall and winter as food and cover. I’m fortunate that the majority of my weed pressure are good weeds.. ragweed and foxtail. Just adds to the cover and diversity as far as I’m concerned. Then let fallow following spring and mow, disc under for fall plots if I want to rotate. Have some photos in the Milo (Dbltree) thread as well.

If I add any amendments it’s typically winter (lime) or at the time I disc (fertilizer, pell lime, etc).

Hope that helps!
 
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