Doing All The Little Things Right:
An Example of How It Can Make a Difference
By Dr. Jochum Wiersma,
University of Minnesota small grains specialist
Thereís a story in this issue about Greg Daws, a producer from Michigan, ND who practices intensive wheat management. Greg and I go back as long I have been in my current job. I barely had settled in
Crookston when Greg started picking my brain, because he knew that I was from the other side of the big pond (The Netherlands) and some of the
things he had learned on his explorations of Denmark he wanted to apply on his operation.
He asked me what I thought of his ideas and often I didnít have the answers simply because I didnít have any local data available that would support or
dispute his practices. A lot of the ideas, like the use of tramlines, were common sense and had application whether you were in Denmark or North Dakota.
Greg defied the pressures to use the same equipment to go over more acres in an attempt to reduce cost per acre (economies of scale) and instead,
chose to manage toward an economic optimum such that he produced more on his existing crop acreage while lowering his cost per bushel produced.
As you read the story, and as he points out himself, it is clear that it is not one single thing that made these yields possible. Itís a long list of little things
that make the difference. You can call it Intensive Wheat Management or just plain good farming. Simple things like soil testing each year, calibrating
the drill correctly, and slowing down the drill to the manufac-turerís recommended speed, scouting for weeds, insects and diseases, and use of pesticides if needed.
In addition, Greg has developed a couple of novel approaches like the split application of his nitrogen, and split applications of fungicides. Neither of
which are not as crucial as the whole concept of Greg Dawsí operation and Gregís mindset when is comes to wheat production
One of the things Greg has worked with a lot are tramlines. Tramlines are basically unseeded rows in the field to create a path for a tractor and
sprayer equipment to follow. Tramlines are very common for wheat producers in northwest Europe and make a lot of sense in that production system, if you consider that those producers often will drive through that
crop six or seven times during the season.
Tramlines offer the best solution for exact operation and eliminate overlapping or skips. In addition, tramlines are easy to follow at dusk,
dawn or even night when visibility decreases. If the tramlines are used throughout the growing season not only for applying herbicides, but also
insecticides and/or fungicides, the resulting compaction will allow driving through the field even if soil conditions are wet.
Although one or more rows are not planted, there is little or no yield reduction. Research has shown in soybean, corn and wheat that the rows
adjacent to the tramline compensate for the rows not planted as they take advantage of the additional nutrients and light. Without tramlines, driving
through the crop will result in some damage. If the crop has not advanced to the jointing stage, the crop will often recover fully. Once the crop has
jointed and the growing point has moved upwards, yield losses can simply be calculated as follows:
Yield Loss (%) =
2 x Tire Width
Overall, ground applications offer several benefits in the form of reduced application costs, increased flexibility and better control over spray volume and spray coverage.