Times are tough if you're a farmer in West Texas. Going in to our third consecutive growing season of devastating drought, farmers like Burt Heinrich have certainly asked themselves the question, when will it rain? But since he can't control mother nature, he has greatly improved the efficiency of his operation, moving in to less-till and no-till situations.
"Burt Heinrich is my name. I farm with my brother, Eric Heinrich. We farm about 2,500 acres here in Lubbock County and Lynn County," Heinrich said. "What we're doing out today is planting. We're trying to combine two operations, we are conservation-type farmers. We've come up with a way to leave our stalks till planting time. We have combined stalk cutting operation and planting operation."
Besides lowering the fuel bill, leaving last year's stalks up all winter and spring helps keep that precious top soil in place, so it's really a win-win.
"We do that for erosion control and the blowing dirt in West Texas is one of our biggest enemies and we spend a lot of money on seed and water and fertilizer on this drip and even our dry land, we want to try to conserve as much moisture as we can," Heinrich said.
Heinrich knows every time he breaks the soil open, that much needed water gets exposed to heat and wind. So making one pass over the ground for both cutting and planting helps save every last drop.
"We did get a little bit of rain here a couple or three days ago. We're trying to plant our wettest stuff while it's working good," Heinrich said. "It looks like we're going to have not much opportunity on dry land this year, this whole High Plains area which I know is a couple million acres of dry land or weak watered land. If it doesn't rain pretty quick, we're going to have a dry land goose egg."
To look on the bright side of the drought, if there is one, huge advances in cotton seed genetics have made. Change usually happens out of necessity, so the American-rooted cotton companies are doing their part to improve drought tolerant seed.
"We plant some FiberMax we plant some Americot varieties, but the varieties we were planting four or five years ago, we don't plant them anymore because technology is coming on. Mother nature does what mother nature wants to do," Heinrich said.
Heinrich and other producers in the area have a season of uncertainty ahead battling mother nature. But making sure they are being the best conservationists they can possibly be is all part of a days work.