Results of visit Russian farmers and agronomists to the USA invited by the direct seeding association "No-till on the Plant"

The scientific-educational journey began with a visit of Ryan’s Speer farm Jacob in Sedgwick, Kansas. Ryan Speer has been engaged in agriculture using No-till technology for more than 17 years. He grows corn, soybeans, wheat and other crops, seeding soil cover crops, stubbly crops of soybean on winter wheat. Ryan is working in harmony with nature, stimulating the activity of soil biota.

Annual rainfall in the region is 800 - 900 mm, while many crops are grown both on irrigation and on dry land. Participants of the delegation visited the field of corn with the direct seeding technology after winter wheat, there corn is high, green, the cobs are full, large and beautiful.

Opponents of direct seeding were convinced that it is not necessary to hill up corn so that it formed air roots. Corn on Ryan’s fields formed even two tiers of air roots. They keep the plant in a vertical position, and also make it drought-resistant. Thanks to air roots, moisture of minor precipitation and dew used more rationally. Drops of dew slide down the wide leaves and stalk to the roots, to the soil - obtained moisture  keeps as long as possible and uses to form the future yield. Ryan’s Speer corn grown on dry land using No-Till technology is difficult to distinguish from that grown on irrigation, while corn on dry land of most of the farmers neighbors, using traditional technology, is yellow and dry.                                          

With the  direct seeding technology, the soil retains a natural structure, and a huge number of microorganisms and invertebrates stays in it. In proof of this, Nikolay Zelenskii uprooted the corn plant and showed the group the earthworm in the roots. This suggests that the soil is alive and microbiological processes occur in the soil optimally, which means that all microorganisms of soil biota have enough nutrition.

The farmer has many tools for managing the yield: seeders for direct seeding , self-propelled sprayer, seed-cleaning machines, elevators, weighing equipment, sprinklers, fertilizer mixer. With the help of the fertilizer mixer he creates solute with basic macro and micro elements for irrigation for the fields. Control of the fertilizer mixer is carried out from a mobile phone, irrigation time adjustments, the density of the solute and the content of substances in it. In the first instance, the necessary volume of the solute is created in the fertilizer mixer and then it is fed for irrigation.

For regular irrigation along the furrows at the edge of the field with soybeans stationary pipes are installed, through which water or working solute is supplied. Fields with stubbly soybeans placed after winter wheat were demonstrated to delegation. The wheat was harvested with a stripper header.The field is irrigated with sprinkler and drip irrigation from flexible hoses at the soil surface. This reduces the unproductive water flow rate. The farmer manages the facility from his mobile phone (dosage, watering time, moving the sprinkler).

The next day, delegation visited the experimental fields of company GreenCoverSeed, which mainly deals with the production of seeds of soil cover crops, and the creation of mixtures (cocktails) of seeds of soil cover crops, for each customer individually.

The company's products are in demand, because after harvesting of the main crops, American No-till users carry out soil cover crops so that the soil is covered, and the process of formation and accumulation of organic substances did not stop for a single day.

There are a lot of crops in the soil cover cocktails: cruciferous (cabbage, daikon), cereals, legumes, сompositae, etc. - from 10 to 15 names. Thanks to them, new nutrition is formed in the soil for its inhabitants, and it ,in turn, rapidly mineralizes and becomes a source of nutrition for subsequent crops. The field should not be idle - its surface must be covered with plant remains. Thanks to soil cover cedar culture crops and the activity of microorganisms, new nutrients are formed in the soil, moisture is retained for subsequent crops in the crop rotation.

The excursion participants were very interested in listening and watching the experience of their American colleagues. But Nikolay Zelenskii warned that it is impossible to copy the experience of American colleagues, crop rotation is considered and a cocktail of soil cover crops is prepared for each region, for each farm, that it will be optimally adapted for a specific field. And it is also very important that all processes in the crop rotation are managed by farmers.

A representative of GreenCoverSeed company also demonstrated a field with a soil cover cocktail, in which there was a lot of daikon. Daikon and similar crops carry out soil bio-drainage by their roots to a great depth.

Also, American colleagues often use a winter vetch with crucifers as a soil cover cocktail. Note that on the fields of American farmers there are quite a few winter vetch crops.

Representatives of GreenCoverSeed noted that crops of all cocktails should be controlled, their development should be regulated by herbicides or cattle grazing. The composition of the cocktails or mixtures is calculated so each plant have a niche and with receiving the shoots on the field, biological variety is created both in nature.

The company GreenCoverSeed cooperates with The University of Nebraska–Lincoln. The representative of the university told about the university's activities, existing experiments and studies. Experimental fields were demonstrated, on the experimental plots with soil cover crops there were placed nameplate of the crops in the mixture. Each mixture is examined, analyzed which substances remain in the soil after it, determine its biological productivity.

Russian farmers examined the fields with cocktails of soil cover crops on winter wheat harvested by the combine at low and high cut. It is important to note that the technology of direct seeding involves the harvesting of wheat on a high cut or with the using of  stripper header. This reduces the load on the harvester and increases the amount of uncultivated stubble residues, which ensures a better work of the direct seeding seeders. Soil cover crops develops well both at high and low cuts, only, they are hard to see on the field when wheat is harvested at a high cut.

Nikolay Zelenskii remembered that a year ago, a Russian farmer Nikolay Chudnov was asked at a seminar about the role of soil cover crops. Some farmers thought that his field was in weeds and called for using fallow land before seeding wheat. But the farmer responded as the American colleagues: that the role of soil cover crops in crop rotation is a biological variety that provides an enabling environment of the succeeding crop formation, preserves moisture in the soil and protects it from erosion.

On the left side, winter wheat was harvested on a low cut, on the right side on a high cut. Seeding of soil cover crops was carried out at the same time.

Soil cover crops are planted on the left. On the right is a field without soil cover crops. The soil is bare and lifeless. The delegation also inspected the seeding of sorghum. Farmers noted that many sorghum chalks were infected by pests (in particular, the Italian locust).

On the next day, delegation visited the CASE plant, which produces combines of various capacities. All the participants were impressed by the scale of the company. One of the main advantages of CASE technology is high quality and reliability. Russian farmers acquainted with the foreign experience of using drones, which are widely used for monitoring agricultural crops for weediness, densities, presence of pests and plant diseases. A presentation of the technical capabilities of the drones was made by the representative of the University of South Dakota - Juzi Gozman. She conducted a demonstration flight of quadrocopter, explained how to manage it and what data can be obtained with it. Video from the drones is processed by a computer and the farmer gets a map of his fields with the necessary information. With the help of such technologies it is possible to save various resources.

The following day, the participants visited  Dwayne L. Beck’s   Dakota Lakes Research Farm in Pierre, South Dakota.   An experienced farmer achieved impressive results in his work on direct seeding. It was interesting that he himself made a seeder for direct seeding, developed a technology for mineral nutrition and a device for application of liquid fertilizers. In his story, he noted that he often uses liquid mineral fertilizers in his fields, when seeding crops and when using sprinklers. He grows corn, soybeans, wheat, sorghum, sunflower and other crops. Like other No-till users, after harvesting the main crops, planting soil cover crops. Almost all of Dwayne L. Beck’s fields are on irrigation in combination with direct seeding technologies.

The excursion to Rick Bieber’s farm, in South Dakota was very interesting and informative. Guests were shown fields with corn, soybean, wheat. Especially for the participants of the excursion, a soil cut was made on the field of corn in order to see the optimal soil structure and the root system of plants, which made it possible to understand why direct seeding technology is one of the most environmentally sound technologies. Nikolay Zelenskii noted that there are a lot of earthworms in the soil, and also drew attention to the presence in a large number of alfalfa of the past years in corn row-spacing. Rick Bieber grows corn, the yield of which is more than 100 centners per hectare, both on irrigation and on dry land.

After that, the delegation acquainted with the experience of the WARD Agrochemical Laboratory, which is able to analyze more than 5000 soil and plant samples per day. Participants were impressed by the speed and accuracy of the laboratory. Most of the processes are automated and each department has specialists of the highest level. The Ward laboratory uses standard methods to investigate nutrient levels in a wide range of different soils. The results of soil research allow farmers to assess the yield potential of their fields. Based on this information, they can ensure exact fertilization and a balanced crop rotation.

At the end of the trip, there was an excursion of the sights of America. The Badlands National Park and Custer State Park were visited, the participants could "touch" the history of America, see the Grand Canyon, and take a part in a fun and interesting parade where farmers demonstrated their rare machinery that was used in the 19th and 20th centuries.

The parade was accompanied by costumed performances and treat of spectators with various sweets. Nikolay Zelenskii recorded a video where he commented everything and showed important subtleties in No-till technology. You can see these videos on our website in the "Video" section. See photo in the "Photo Gallery’’.