The Ireland Brothers, of Martin, S.D., get more out of no-till by using stripper headers on their combines.
With the Shelbourne Reynolds headers that strip wheat kernels out heads and leave the straw standing upright, they can operate combines at higher speeds and in tougher conditions than when using straight cut headers that put all the straw through the combine. That increases their combining capacity.
Leaving the straw standing also improves yields in the crops planted the following year, especially when it is dry, says Brent Ireland, who farms with his father, Sam, and uncle, Roy.
The Irelands bought their first stripper header in 2001 after a hailstorm damaged some of their ripe wheat fields. They then used the combine with the stripper header and a combine with a rigid straight cut header to harvest their undamaged wheat. The two combines ran side-by-side and left alternating swaths of stripped and straight-cut stubble. The next year, they planted chick peas and corn on those acres. It was a dry year and when heat stress set in, the crop in the stripped swaths looked much better than the crop in the straight-cut swaths. Apparently, the stripped stubble had caught more snow, which increased the amount of moisture in the soil.
"The difference was very clear," Brent says.
No planting trouble
Stripped fields are usually easy to plant, Brent says. The Irelands leave the straw standing and don't mow or harrow fields.
"There are some conditions where the tall straw can create problems, but for the most part it less of an issue than having matted straw to plant through," Brent says.
About the only drawback to the stripper headers is that they can't be used to harvest all the crops they grown. They need headers for headers for corn and soybeans, for example.
But Brent says they probably would have had different headers for wheat anyway, and buying stripper headers for wheat has been a good investment.
"They've help us make the most of no-till," he says.