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Drilling to save water

Greg Freeman plants alfalfa seed recently with a no-till drill driven by a tractor in a field off Cheyne Road.

Published April. 7, 2004

No-till drill conserves water and effort


It conserves precious water, and does a lot more.

For the third consecutive year, the Klamath Soil and Water Conservation District is renting a no-till drill that pushes seed into the soil in untilled fields.

Conventional drills rely merely on their own weight. But the no-till drill uses hydraulic power to push seed into the soil - even if there is a heavy cover of stubble remaining the previous growing season.

And that saves water, said Rick Woodley, district manager.

When fields are subjected to two or three tilling operations - which is the norm - damp soils are pulled to the surface where the sun and wind remove precious moisture.

With the no-till drill, a field's first irrigation often can be either postponed or skipped altogether. It also costs less to pass through a field once instead of several times for tilling.

It is an expensive piece of machinery, starting at about $32,000, but rental of the tool from the district is dirt cheap - $9 per acre, plus a delivery charge.

By comparison, tilling a field before planting costs about $15 an acre. At that rate, a grower would spend at least $15,000 just to get seed planted on 1,000 acres.

Other benefits of no-till farming include:

Quicker emergence of the new plant, resulting in a more robust stock and higher yields.

Ability to plant several combinations of seeds at the same time.

Less soil erosion by spring winds.

Cover crops in the fall.

Interseeding of existing stands.

Use of the no-till system has grown in the last three years. In 2002, the machinery passed through some 600 acres in the Basin; in 2003, the acreage jumped to 3,000; this year an estimated 4,000 acres will be seeded by the system

Growers interested in renting the no-till drill, should contact Rick Woodley at 883-6932 ext. 117, or Larry Peach at 883-6932 ext. 106.

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