4 weeks ago
Suprises me what I don't tell the next generation----Pass it on when you can.
Woke up thinking about this after reading a cover crop promoton.
Lets call it the “ Walter's Farm"
In the mid 1950’s (53-57) It was a drought with high winds that were blowing out wheat fields in the winter and every spring we had 30’s type dirt storms roll in from the southwest. Skys would be black for a couple of days each time.
Mom nailed wet towels over the the wondows in my room. (the sw room in the stutzman house and I slept in the middle of the living room in the old Roehr(Fisher) house. She made a tent out of beding in the middle of the room for me.
“Not to come out of until she said so”.—— my lungs ached and her vicks chest rubs felt so good.
The usda was promoting the first CRP program called “Soil Bank”. Similar to CRP, trying to get the blowing sand under control. USDA promoted cover crops as well. Mechanical planting, called Listing of feed or tall milo and ditch listing on 40 inch rows to stop blowing were popular and fairly affective. those early cover crops were anything that grew fast. Rye grass was one of those used. It grew in a similar cycle as wheat, got taller and made its grain a little earlier. The market for the Rye seed was never big enough to have the elevators store it and another problem soon developed as dad anticipated. It had a bigger head and a slightly bigger seed than wheat, visibly different but was similar. It was liked by cattlemen for rapid growth and good grazing.
The farm east of the fisher place sold and the Littell family from the Elkhart area moved in. They were very profane and rough so I didn’t see them much. Milo and wheat were the two marketable crops. Tall milo or sudan feed, and wheat were raised for grazing or feed bailing for winter.
The Littell’s used Rye for a crop grazing it and trying to sell seed or bailing it. Soon the Elevators would not take it and sampled every truck of wheat. If the wheat had visible Rye in the sample the wheat would be rejected and have to be used for pig or cow feed on the farm.
The Littell adopted son, Walter, was 5 years older than me and I met him when I started school at Banner in 1957. He was big and good hearted, we became friends. He helped me.
Walter, by way of his parents “wisdom” was transfered to a military high school to be “toughened up” as he was headed into 8th grade(as high as the country school went, )
I was in High School when Walter returned home and went to work with his dad…. still not tough enough and still a nice friend. Walter's dad, as well as Art Wonder, died at what would be younger ages today— long hours in the dirt of sw ks from 1930’s to 1950’s with open seated equipment took a tole.
Back to Rye…… As walter became a farmer He had to deal with the rye problem and had a heart for farming. He turned to my dad for advice many times because he could not sell wheat from their farm because the Rye volunteer persisted.
He and my dad worked out a continuous milo program that finally overcame the problem after about 6 years. And for most of that 6 years walter mowed his road ditches to stop the wild rye. Herbicides were not available yet…. 24d was, but nothing that would kill the Rye since it was a grass and similar to wheat.
A side note to this……… which reminds us “you have to think for yourself, because those who sell things do not face your problems” I was in FHSU at school or working from 1970-spring 1976. But I worked for dad every summer except one and during breaks. I was lucky to have a desire for Sciences and Math…. I had 30 hours of chemistry in the early 70’s when some of the first herbicides were being developed and tested. It was a common point of discussions and lectures. During summers I carried a glass container with a strong salt chemical and holes in the lid. The herbicide program for us was to stop and get off the tractor every time I saw a johnson grass clump and shake salt over it to kill that area for a couple of years. Johnson grass had been used as a "cover crop" in the 1930's to try and stop the blowing ground of the dust bowl. It would grow back from roots as well as seed. Disliked as much as bindweed. I would have never dreamed of the self propelled sprayer i would live on some day in the future.
The chemical boom started in the late 60’s and through the 70’s with the development of atrazine, banvel, and finally Roundup by 1980. By the mid 80’s development of new chemicals exploded
Atrazine had guidelines but was developed, like most chemicals for higher organic matter clay soils and tested on corn primarily. We soon learned It was much hotter and more sensitive in the sand and on other crops
Walter believed the salesman and the label when a new chemical that was also a metho-triozine product came out with a label for wheat and milo, and to be expected "plenty of hype of a dream come true". Called I-gran it, like atrazine had a long active life.
Most of us waited for testing at Hays and Panhandle state and we all ran small trials and advised each other. Walter decided to test it for a year on the whole farm….. Claude said “that is not a test”— and it failed….. In the sand Igran killed grasses and broadleafs and milo at the labeled rates.
For at least two years the milo died from that first application in Walters test. We ran experiments on banding it away from the milo, but still found that if it rained, the chemical would wash into the furrow and kill the crop…….. small tests on small acres. Surface planted was better but there were other issues .
Walter was such a good man…….. He survived and came to Claude thanking him for what he had done. Because the answer for Walter was wheat which was less sensative and after several years of milo, yielded very well for him on a continuous basis for enough years to out live the Igran.
Dad had helped him clean up the Rye problem and he raised good wheat at good prices for a few years.
Walter was a good farmer that was never appreciated enough, He could handle his mistakes but struggled with the judgements of others... I miss him.