Sept. 1, 1949
H^TOmnAL S0 # fETV
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ßy JERRY LESTER
THE NEW WHEAT acreage allotment
program might well be considered an "op
portunity" for many of Montana's dryland
wheat farmers, according to Ralph Williams,
superintendent of the Central
Montana branch experiment sta
tion at Moccasin. "It is an oppor
tunity," he declares, "to increase
production efficiency and thus re
duce overhead through use of bet
ter methods and approved varie
ties of seed. It is an opportunity
to get many submarginal acres of
wheat land back into grass, at
least in the form of grassed water
ways, buffer strips and other conservation
Williams' point is that by using better
farming practices and decreasing the farm
overhead, many farmers would suffer little
from a 15 to 20 percent decrease in their
wheat acreage now. Besides this, building
up the land and conserving it would be
invaluable to the farmers' sons, the state
and the nation.
Not All Work, No Pay
And the good part about all this talk
about a "conservation opportunity" is that
it doesn't mean all work and no real pay.
Take such an established practice as sum
merfallow, for example. It is followed by
a good many farmers now on only one-third
or less of their land in spite of the fact that
years of experience have shown more than
double production on summerfallowed
land as compared to continuous cropping.
And to go a step farther—winter wheat
seeded on crested wheatgrass land produced
38 bushels to the acre at Moccasin this year
as compared with only 26 bushels on regu
lar summerfallow. Figures for 1948, when
moisture conditions were more favorable,
were even more striking—44 bushels to the
acre on land formerly in crested wheat
grass and 28 1 /z bushels on summerfallow.
Williams estimates that if the average
wheat farmer puts in grass only where it
needed for field waterways to con
trol water erosion or in buffer strips to
control wind erosion, this alone would
amount to about half of the reduction in
wheat acreage now being asked.
Demand for Grass Seed
Williams also pointed out that never in
the last 40 years has there been such a de
mand for grass seed. So why not put in
crested wheatgrass and harvest a seed crop?
This seed would probably be needed in the
locality, but if not, the entire northwest
record of 1949
1947 five-year average of 4i4W.OOO planted
The arerage reduction far the «täte;:
would be approximately 14 percent instead
of 23.5 percent.
For a summary of details of the new allot
ment plan as are available. turn to page ».
would bxlpo the ^ . v ..
acres, still somewhat above the 1943
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faces this grass seed shortage at the present
have to be on a big scale. If every wheat
Also this grass seed production doesn't
farmer harvested only about 1,000 pounds
of seed there would be plenty in the state,
and the danger of a drouth area hitting one
two large seed producers would be les
sened, Williams points out.
Here then, is an opportunity to use grass
in controlling soil blowing and water erosion
and at the same time have a good cash crop.
And when this land is put back into wheat,
you can expect a 10 to 15-bushel increase in
yield, according to the experiment station
findings mentioned before. So you can't
lose by planting at least some of those extra
acres to grass.
$45 to $60 an Acre
But how about profits from this grass
seed operation? Seed production on dry
land in a good year will run from 300 to
500 pounds to the acre. Williams admits
thal lt m ight drop lower, however, so let's
take 9 q p 0un( Js to the acre at the current
price of 50 cents a pound. This would gross
the 0 p era t 0 r $45 an acre. Remember, too
that all this see d (Please turn to page 34)
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