When the weather is cooperating, nothing is more cost-efficient than no-till rice and soybeans for Weiner, Ark., farmer Scott Matthews. But when it rains every week during harvest for a few years in a row, the system can literally get stuck in a rut.

Matthews is the operator of Matthews Farm Partnership and farms 1,400 acres of rice and soybeans in a one-in, one-out rotation. He started no-tilling his rice in 1984, and soybeans, after the second year of Roundup Ready technology.

Matthews says his later start in farming was a factor in adopting no-till. “Coming from the fertilizer/chemical side, I couldn’t figure out why we were making some steps that didn’t seem necessary other than that was the way we always did it. I would see these huge flat beautiful fields that looked like a desktop. I asked my dad (Joe Matthews) why we would take a field and make it rougher to plant. It didn’t make any sense. I saw no-till as a way to save time and be more cost-efficient.”

He talked his father into a no-till system, despite the fact that a lot of technology for the system was not yet available. “In 1984 there was no such thing as a no-till drill. So we took a conventional drill and made a no till drill. We always try to plant into soft ground. Just as soon as the ground would hold the tractor up, we went in and started planting rice.”

This pushed rice planting up to early April and then late March, which were not typical planting dates at that time.

For Matthews, making no-till work requires thinking two to three steps ahead and never putting off until tomorrow what can be done today.

After soybeans are cut in the fall, Matthews will burn soybean stubble. “If the weather conditions are right, it will burn just like gunpowder across the field. It gives you a beautiful seedbed.”

P and K applications go out at that time too. “I know it's kind of cost-prohibitive for some people to put it out in the fall. But a lot of companies have programs that will let you go to March 15 if you pay 25 percent down.”

About a week after soybean stubble is burned, Matthews scouts for winter vegetation. “A lot of people don’t realize it, but the winter grass has already started growing by the time the leaves fall off the beans. I’m very aggressive with burndown. If my fields are getting green in November, they will get sprayed.”

Matthews applies Roundup for that burndown, but will use Valor “if the conditions are right. I’ve had very good luck with Roundup that time of year. If you get it out and on, you’re not worried about how long it’s going to take to kill.” At that time, Matthews will put in any ditching the field may require.

In the spring, he’ll take another look at weeds and when temperatures are right, he’ll apply Roundup PowerMax.

His optimum planting window for rice is March 26 through April 5. He runs a John Deere 1590 John Deere no-till drill, equipped with Starfire GPS to allow around-the- clock planting. He plants both hybrid and conventional rice.

After planting, Matthews will apply Command and another shot of Roundup, build the levees and put in spills. “We try to do that in a real timely manner.”

A pre-flood nitrogen application of 250 pounds to 260 pounds goes out by airplane. Agrotain goes on just about every acre, according to Matthews. “Some of my fields are so big that it may take me 7 to 10 days to flood them. Agrotain does a very good job.”

At mid-season, he’ll put a reduced amount of nitrogen on hybrids, 50 pounds to 60 pounds, and 100 pounds to 125 pounds on conventional rice.