Direct seeding

Bill Jepsen, a dryland wheat farmer near Ione, Ore., uses a direct seed drill as part of his no-till operation. A conference this week will focus on direct seeding.

An upcoming conference will allow farmers to take a deep dive into soil health and the benefits of direct-seed farming, an industry leader says.

"Certainly that's right down the alley of the membership of (the association)," said Ty Meyer, executive director for the Pacific Northwest Direct Seed Association. "That's definitely exciting, for us to see that there's an additional push on what these guys are really out there trying to accomplish."

Direct seed farming places seed and fertilizer directly into the crop residue and root structure from the previous year.

Specialized equipment opens a narrow seed row in the soil. The crop residue and root structure keep the water and the soil in the field, reducing erosion caused by wind and water by 90%.

"I think there's some tremendous opportunities coming for people that are looking at conservation programs like direct-seed and no-till,"  Meyer said.

The association's Farmed Smart sustainable farm certification program will also play a larger role for the organization, he said. 

Certification criteria were developed using best management practices from USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service, the state Department of Ecology and conservation districts.

About 35 farms have been certified and 25  have applied or in the process of applying.

Meyer expects interest in the certification to increase. 

He also points to monitoring continued concerns about herbicide resistance in weeds.

"I think there's some obvious general concerns across the ag industry that are impacting direct-seeders, like everyone else," Meyer said.

Farmers and the association will work to further establish conservation efforts and programs to build value on farms, Meyer said.

The association's 2020 Cropping Systems Conference will be Jan. 7-8 at the Three Rivers Convention Center in Kennewick, Wash. The association has about 250 members. 

"I think we're in that era of agriculture where we've got to continue to evolve and look at new things on our farms," Meyer said. "We're going to try to push people a little bit to think outside of the box and give them some good information."

Topics include cover crops, drought-resistant soil and the nutritional value of wheat. The conference has added a third day, Jan. 9, devoted entirely to advanced soil health.

"We've got people that are pretty advanced in their direct-seed and no-till systems that are looking for more in-depth educational opportunities on what they can and can't do on their farms as they progress further into their conservation efforts," Meyer said. "This is going to give them a deep-dive opportunity."

Meyer expects more than 400 people to attend the conference.

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