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Articles written by Mark Watson


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  • No-Till Notes: Herbicide resistance

    Mark Watson|May 16, 2016

    A growing concern across the country is the development of herbicide resistance in weed species to glyphosphate herbicide more commonly referred to as Roundup.  This herbicide has grown in popularity in crop production since it first came on the market years ago.  With advanced technology we now have crops such as soybeans, corn, sugar beets, and alfalfa which tolerate the herbicide.  These genetically modified crops can be planted and the glyphosphate herbicide applied on them to control weeds in the crop.   The widespread use of...

  • No-Till Notes: Herbicide resistance

    Mark Watson, Panhandle No Till Educator|May 9, 2016

    A growing concern across the country is the development of herbicide resistance in weed species to glyphosphate herbicide more commonly referred to as Roundup.  This herbicide has grown in popularity in crop production since it first came on the market years ago.  With advanced technology we now have crops such as soybeans, corn, sugar beets, and alfalfa which tolerate the herbicide.  These genetically modified crops can be planted and the glyphosphate herbicide applied on them to control weeds in the crop.   The widespread use of...

  • No-Till Notes: 7,000,000,000 humans

    Mark Watson, Panhandle No Till Educator|May 2, 2016

    I’ve been looking through past articles I’ve written to select articles I think were important as we move forward in agricultural production. My time writing “No-till Notes” is winding down so I’m trying to select articles of importance. The original version of this article was written nearly 5 years ago and I think it carries a lot of weight today. As we strive to improve the health of our soils we work with, we are banking on these healthier soils producing more per acre. These healthier soils will also become more water efficient...

  • No-Till Notes: 10 tips part 5, managing residues

    Mark Watson, Panhandle No-Till Educator|Apr 18, 2016

    I have been discussing in the past several articles important tips for continuous no-till crop production on dry land and irrigated acres. Managing residues begins at harvest with even distribution of the residues at harvest. I’m a big fan of stripper heads in harvesting small grains like winter wheat. The stripper head leaves the residues in place and attached to the soil surface. The entire plant is left undisturbed for maximum residue height. You’re not cutting the residue in half and expecting the combine to handle and distribute the...

  • No Till notes: '10 tips, part 4'

    Mark Watson, Panhandle No till Educator|Apr 11, 2016

    I’ve been discussing 10 tips for successful no till crop production and thus far I have covered choosing a good crop rotation, winter wheat as the most important crop for supplying a consistent amount of residues to make the rest of the crop rotation function, and utilizing a stripper head to manage this amount of residues. I’ve also discussed the value of adding field peas to the crop rotation. Field peas are the ideal legume to add to the rotation in the spring prior to seeding winter wheat in the fall. I have also seen firsthand on our...

  • No Till notes: '10 tips, part 2'

    Mark Watson, Panhandle No till Educator|Mar 28, 2016

    Last week I started off my 10 tips to successful no-till crop production with a discussion on crop rotations. I feel this is the most important consideration on your farm. Designing a crop rotation for you farm will affect your bottom line, weed and disease cycles, and your farm’s performance well into the future. Take plenty of time each year and assess your rotation and improvements you can make in designing your rotation. As I mentioned last week designing a good rotation for our farm has been an ongoing challenge. We’ve been utilizing...

  • No Till notes: '10 Tips'

    Mark Watson, Panhandle No till Educator|Mar 21, 2016

    My time writing no till notes will be coming to an end in the near future, so I’m sharing with you some of what I consider to be the most important aspects of no till crop production in our area. The Panhandle No Till Partnership will continue to provide no till educational events around the Panhandle including field days and winter conferences. Tip number 1 for me is choosing the proper crop rotation. I feel this decision is the most important decision you will make on your farm. The crop rotation you choose will directly affect your bottom...

  • No Till notes: 'Dr. Kofi Boa'

    Mark Watson, Panhandle No till Educator|Mar 14, 2016

    I had the great pleasure of meeting and visiting with Dr. Kofi Boa at this year’s No-till On the Plains winter conference. Dr. Boa has undertaken an incredibly difficult and rewarding task in his homeland of Ghana, Africa. Dr. Boa is building soil health to stimulate economic growth in an impoverished nation. He is building wealth in Africa two acres at a time. I’d like to share his inspiring story with you. Dr. Boa was a young child when his mother returned to their home in tears. His mother farmed a two acre farm and her crop of cocoa...

  • No Till notes: 'Fortunate'

    Mark Watson, Panhandle No till Educator|Mar 7, 2016

    Over the past four weeks I have had the good fortune to travel to four regional conservation agriculture meetings. These meetings are all billed as no-till meetings in Kansas, Colorado and Nebraska. What we have learned over the years is that no-till is a tool used in conservation agriculture but is not the “end all” to soil health. All of these meetings are focused on improving the health and performance of the soil which we work with on our farms and ranches. Improving soil health is the end goal in conservation agriculture and using...

  • No Till notes: 'Water Conservation, Part 4'

    Mark Watson, Panhandle No till Educator|Feb 8, 2016

    As I mentioned in previous articles we view water conservation on our farm as a systems approach to saving water. Thus far I have talked about utilizing no-till crop production techniques to minimize soil disturbance and adopting a dynamic crop rotation. Another component to water conservation we have implemented is to produce a forage crop following our irrigated winter wheat harvest. I struggled with this decision since we are producing another crop on our irrigated acres which will require some irrigation. This contradicts our whole idea of...

  • No Till notes: 'Water Conservation, Part 3'

    Mark Watson, Panhandle No till Educator|Feb 1, 2016

    Water conservation in irrigated crop production has to be viewed as a systems approach to conserving water. As I stated in previous articles I think water conservation starts with improving the performance of the soil. Another key component to a systems approach to water conservation is choosing a dynamic crop rotation for your farm or ranch. The crops you choose to produce have to be profitable, provide a good agronomic rotation, be relatively high in water use efficiency and require less irrigation for high yields. On our farm we have chosen...

  • No Till notes: 'Blue Dasher Farm'

    Mark Watson, Panhandle No till Educator|Jan 11, 2016

    Many of you may remember Dr. Jonathon Lundgren, a former entomologist with USDA-ARS in Brookings, S.D. Dr. Lundgren spoke at our Panhandle No Till Partnership winter conference a few years ago. Dr. Lundgren is a very enthusiastic and dedicated entomologist and his passion for his work shows in his presentations. Dr. Lundgren was very well-received at our conference. Dr. Lundgren has recently left the USDA-ARS research center in Brookings, S.D., to embark on a new career which I think is going to be fascinating to watch as this new career...

  • No Till notes: 'Educational events'

    Mark Watson, Panhandle No till Educator|Jan 4, 2016

    I would like to wish everyone a very happy and prosperous new year! I thought I would inform everyone on some upcoming regional conservation agricultural events that I’m sure will provide excellent educational opportunities to producers. I have been attending these regional meetings for several years and I always feel that this has been time well spent. You get to listen to educators speak about all kinds of topics relating to conservation agriculture and network with like minded producers from around our region. I’ve learned a lot over the...

  • No Till notes: 'Giving'

    Mark Watson, Panhandle No till Educator|Dec 28, 2015

    I’ve met a lot of really interesting and enjoyable people through my travels and involvement with conservation agriculture and continuous no till crop production. Two of my favorites are Brian and Keith Burns. Brian and Keith took it upon themselves to establish Green Cover Seed. Green Cover Seed is a cover crop/forage crop seed distribution business. Brian and Keith decided early on with the establishment of cover crops that someone had to become a distributor of the vast variety of seed needed for these cover crops. They have built their...

  • No Till notes: 'Merry Christmas!'

    Mark Watson, Panhandle No till Educator|Dec 21, 2015

    I would like to start by wishing everyone a very Merry Christmas! I hope everyone is surrounded by family and friends to share in the holiday season together. This is a truly wonderful time of the year! There is an educational opportunity for everyone interested in no-till crop production practices that is easy to use and is generated via email across our state. Once you belong to the listserv.unl.edu, you are able to post an email on any topic you are interested in discussing about no-till crop production. Your email goes out across the state...

  • No Till notes: '20-plus years of education'

    Mark Watson, Panhandle No till Educator|Dec 14, 2015

    In the past, I’ve spoken at No-till On the Plains and the High Plains No-till Conference and been asked to cover looking back at our history of no-till crop production and the evolution of my no-till farming experience during this time. My sister, Janet, gave me a memory stick for my computer for Christmas several years ago. Janet scanned all my parents photos and slides over the past 60 years on this memory stick. I’ve been looking at these photos and reminiscing as well. One of the slides that I’ve added to my presentations shows me...

  • No Till notes: 'Power of Legumes, Part 4'

    Mark Watson, Panhandle No till Educator|Dec 7, 2015

    Last week I visited about the results of the biological tests we ran on our winter wheat stubble, which showed very low microbial activity. The winter wheat sample had a total microbial biomass number of only 1,248.84. This low result would be expected since there is not much actively growing in the field and the residue is a high carbon-low nitrogen type residue. This high carbon-low nitrogen type residue explains why winter wheat residue is valuable in our region as the residue is hard to break down and lasts a long time. The winter wheat...

  • No Till notes: 'Power of Legumes, part 3'

    Mark Watson, Panhandle No till Educator|Nov 30, 2015

    On our farm we sampled five fields for biological activity this fall. We waited to sample the fields until the middle of September. The reason we waited was to get some rain so we could get our probe in the ground. We also figured moisture may increase the amount of biological activity. The fields we sampled were wheat stubble from this year’s wheat harvest and field pea stubble from this year’s field pea harvest. We also sampled a field of dry land corn and a field of cover crops that was planted where we weren’t able to plant dry land...

  • No Till notes: 'Power of Legumes, part 2'

    Mark Watson, Panhandle No till Educator|Nov 23, 2015

    Modern day agricultural producers are constantly striving to lower production costs and improve their stewardship of the land. Many producers have adopted conservation agricultural systems as a means to lower production costs and improve the health of the soils we work with on our farms and ranches. Leaving previous crop residues attached to the soil surface helps protect these soils. Using no-till crop production methods that provide minimal soil disturbance when planting and harvesting the crops also improves soil health. As these methods...

  • No Till notes: 'Power of Legumes'

    Mark Watson, Panhandle No till Educator|Nov 16, 2015

    As you look back through agriculture there have been some real turning points. Agriculture saw the first real leap into production agriculture in our country with the Industrial Age when mechanized agriculture really changed the face of our country. Larger and larger farms were created as it became possible to produce crops on many more acres. The next big breakthrough came with the Green Revolution where fertilizers, pesticides and plant breeding really came to the forefront and were adopted on a wide scale. This lead to increased yields on...

  • No Till notes: 'Nice fall weather'

    Mark Watson, Panhandle No till Educator|Nov 9, 2015

    I want to start by thanking everyone for their well wishes following my knee replacement surgery. Everything went well with the surgery and I’m now going through the physical therapy getting a full range of motion back in the knee. I have always thought living in rural western Nebraska is a great place to be where everyone is surrounded by friends, family, and neighbors who are truly concerned for the well-being of one another. Judging from the view from my couch looking out the window and my trips to the doctor’s office and therapy, we...

  • No Till notes: 'We're leaking'

    Mark Watson, Panhandle No Till Educator|Nov 2, 2015

    Dr. Dwayne Beck from the Dakota Lakes Research farm near Pierre, S.D. will be presenting at the upcoming PNTP Winter Conference, Feb. 23-24, 2015, at the Gering Civic Center. He often begins to engage his audiences by asking the producers in attendance where they want their farms to be in 60 years or 600 years. He wants the producers to look to the future and start making decisions now to start building their operations to match their vision. Dr. Beck also points out that with today’s modern approach to crop production our ecosystem is...

  • No Till notes: 'Perception'

    Mark Watson, Panhandle No Till Educator|Oct 26, 2015

    Our way of life in agriculture across the breadbasket of America is being threatened by special interest groups who disagree with how we conduct our business. These special interest groups disagree with how we produce the food which feeds the world. Our image as stewards of the land and livestock is being tainted and it’s important we start telling our side of the story. These special interest groups are well organized and well funded. Their sole intention is to dictate policy so the food we produce conforms to their standards. These groups d...

  • No till notes: '7,000,000,000-plus and counting on our planet'

    Mark Watson, Panhandle No Till Educator|Oct 19, 2015

    The United Nations estimates that the world population has now surpassed 7.3 billion humans living on our planet. It took 123 years, from 1804 to 1927, to go from a population of 1 billion to 2 billion people on our planet.  The United Nations estimates it will take only 10 years from now to add another billion people and reach 8,000,000,000 people in world population.  World population will grow an average of 78 million people per year.  That is a rather amazing and sobering statistic. The strain on our planet’s resources to cloth, feed,...

  • No till notes: 'Managing your bucket'

    Mark Watson, Panhandle No Till Educator|Oct 12, 2015

    One of the best visualizations I’ve heard for managing your soil moisture and the precipitation you receive is to compare your soil’s moisture holding capacity to a bucket. The size of your bucket depends on the soil texture, organic matter content and soil structure. With good surface residues, you can get the precipitation you receive to infiltrate the soil and start filling the bucket. If you have good soil structure you can get the moisture to the bottom of the bucket, and if you have good organic matter content your soil will act as a...

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