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Success Stories - Dryland No-till Farm | Montana

Montana NRCS - Featured Customer Nomination

Dave White and Jim Squires in a hay field on Squires' farm.Name: Jim Squires
Location: Glendive, Montana
Operation: Dryland no-till farm
PAS: Robert Moler, (406) 587-6842, robert.moler@mt.usda.gov

Jim Squires never stops learning. He listens to audio tapes as he drives, researches new technology on the internet, and knows the names and phone numbers of most agricultural researchers in the West. That lifetime of learning has paid off, both in profitable farming practices and acceptance in Montana's first Conservation Security Program (CSP) sign-up.

Always keeping up with the latest technology and information, Squires didn't hesitate to apply for CSP when he heard the NRCS would pay him for what he was already doing. As a Tier III CSP Partner, Squires is being rewarded for implementing many innovative farming methods in raising spring wheat, barley, safflower, yellow peas, and canola on his farm.

Squires was an early-adopter of no-till farming methods. Direct seeding with no tillage increases organic matter in his soil and reduces compactions problems which helped him qualify for the highest tier of CSP.

He also saved about 50 percent on nitrogen costs when he began banding fertilizer into the soil while seeding his crop. Nitrogen-fixing pulse crops reduce his fertilizer bill, too. He drives a train of implements behind his tractor so he has to make only one pass to direct seed. His train makes it possible to get 2,700 acres of crops in the ground within tiny windows of opportunity in the fall and spring.

Squires also uses a Global Positioning System to reduce overlaps and gaps in his rows. "We've been using GPS for four years. It paid for itself in the first year with fewer inputs, "he said.

Another technique that Squires uses is measuring the pH of water. "Insecticides break down faster in basic water, so a good farmer needs to neutralize his water before he mixes it. It's crucial to know the efficacy of the pesticides you use or you might be wasting all that time and money and fuel," said Squires. Well water at Squires' farm tests at pH of 8.2 to 8.6, which can break down pesticides within a couple of hours. Squires hauls his spray water from Glendive, where the pH tests at 7 to 7.2.

Another of Squires' favorite inputs is a biological growth stimulant that he applies as he seeds his crop. "Roots on my plants will be five or six times bigger than plants that haven't had (the product) and root mass is directly related to yield," said Squires. "Using enzymes to control crop growth is a whole new science."