A gentler kind of drill
no-till drill, recently purchased through
grant funding by the Klamath Soil and Water
Conservation District, sits in a Klamath
Reclamation Project lease land plot near
Tulelake. Rick Woodley of the Klamath Soil
and Water Conservation District demonstrates
how the district's newest no-till drill
works. The district has purchased a second
drill for growers in the Klamath Basin to
Demand from Basin growers to
lease a no-till grain drill from the Klamath Soil
and Water Conservation District has been so high
that the district has purchased a second one.
"Interest has been increasing ... to the point that
we couldn't get to everyone who wanted it," said
Rick Woodley of the district. So far this spring, 23
growers have signed up to lease one of the drills.
Drought conditions, along
with a request for water conservation by the U.S.
Bureau of Reclamation, and increasing fuel costs
aided the district in its decision to purchase the
second no-till drill this year.
The drills can directly seed multiple grain and
grass varieties and apply fertilizer in one
application into untilled ground, reducing the
amount of fuel and water a grower needs to use.
Conventional tilling costs $15 to $17 per acre, said
Woodley. With each pass through a field for regular
tilling, planting and fertilizing, a grower's
production costs rise.
Water usage also decreases when the drill is used.
Moisture in the soil is not lost to evaporation
since the field isn't tilled before it is seeded.
The first irrigation in a field is often delayed
with no-till practices.
"Seed goes into moist
ground," Woodley said. "When you can postpone or
eliminate an irrigation, that's pretty significant."
No-till practices are catching on in the Basin and a
few farmers have even purchased drills for their own
Sam Henzel and his brother and partner Thurston
Henzel have purchased a no-till drill for their
operation, Henzel Brothers.
"We anticipate it will be a significant portion of
our operation from now on," said Sam Henzel. "The
concept of the no-till drill is one that we're going
to embrace and expand in our farming operation."
Henzel Brothers is planning
on conducting its own field tests with the
"We will experiment with different crop regimens,"
Henzel said. "Specifically if we're going to be able
to flood a piece of property and go back and be able
to utilize the no-till on it the next year."
The drill uses 25 discs that cut a 15-foot-wide
swath of rows for seed and fertilizer. The discs on
the drill can be adjusted to cut a row 1/4- to
3/4-inch deep for seed placement.
Increased yields have been
seen on a significant number of irrigators' crops,
"We've had no decrease in yields," Woodley said. The
decrease in operating costs are a benefit to the
"If a grower can see his
yield is the same or 10 to 15 percent lower because
of reduced till practices - he's still gaining
dollars per acre," Woodley said.
Other pluses that have been found with no-till
practices are lower fertilizer application rates,
healthier root stock and plants, decreased erosion
and better tilth.
"In sandier soils tilth
becomes critically important," Woodley said.
Two things that haven't changed with using the
no-till drill are weeds and bugs. Control practices
for weeds and insects still remain the same, Woodley
The ability to inter-seed an
existing crop was a use for the no-till drill that
Woodley hadn't looked for. The district has been
able to use the drill on acreage with an older crop
"The biggest thing that's been neat is
inter-seeding," Woodley said. "A 5- or 6-year-old
alfalfa crop can be inter-seeded with oats,
triticale or forage crop.
"We hadn't anticipated that kind of application."
The district purchased its first no-till grain drill
in 2002, with grants from seven agencies. It has
since been used for 103 jobs in the Basin.
The newest drill was purchased this year with grants
from a variety of sources.
"We're in a continued process of procuring funding,"
The second machine is identical to the first to
eliminate the need for growers to learn how to use
two different pieces of equipment.
The decision in 2002 to provide a no-till drill to
growers in the Klamath Basin, with its shorter
growing season, wasn't hastily made.
"We spent probably two years researching before we
made the decision to purchase," Woodley said. "You
don't get two chances in this Basin.
"First year we didn't allow more than 20 percent of
a field used for no-till."
And for the most part the no-till drill project has
been a success story for the district. Out of the
103 jobs the drill has completed, only one of them
"As of now we've had one application that we were
not satisfied with," Woodley said. "It doesn't work
The biggest obstacle the district faced, said
Woodley, was in trying to no-till into heavy wheat
stubble with thick and matted chaff rows following
harvest, especially following a wet spring.
"The chaff row needs to be disbursed as you
harvest," Woodley said, also adding that burning or
baling the leftover straw helps get rid of extra
The drills are stored at Floyd A. Boyd Co., a farm
equipment business in Merrill that also delivers and
maintains the drills.
"They've been a very willing partner in this,"
Woodley said. "They're an integral part of the
The cost to lease the drill from the district is $9
per acre with a $150 minimum and a $65 delivery fee.
For more information about no-till and minimum
tillage practices, contact Woodley at the district
at 883-6932, ext. 117, or Larry Peach at ext. 106.