Stacy Hoeme, Scott City, Kansas, USA

The first year Stacy Hoeme used a Shelbourne stripper header his uncle had a rather extreme reaction to the tall straw. As Hoeme remembers it, his uncle asked, “What the hell are you going to do with this?” What he did with it was raise 100 bushel milo following the wheat.

That was 12 years ago and Hoeme, of Scott City, Kan., has never regretted purchasing that first stripper header, in fact he purchased his fourth stripper header, a CSV32,  in 2006 from Leoti Greentech in Leoti, Kan. In an area of the state where rainfall in the best of years is 19 inches or less, and for the past five to six years has been nearly non-existent, Hoeme believes he made the right decision at the right time.

undefinedHoeme farms 5,000 acres in and around Scott County in southwest Kansas and operates HRC Feeders, a 30,000-head feedlot southeast of Scott City. Except for 600 acres of irrigated ground, the farm is dryland, no-till. Hoeme utilizes a rotation of wheat-grain sorghum-summer fallow or wheat-grain sorghum-grain sorghum-summer fallow on his ground. The irrigated acreage is planted to corn, with some wheat irrigated with feedlot runoff. Dryland Roundup Ready corn is sometimes substituted into the spring crop rotation. In any given year, he has 1,500 acres in wheat, 1,500 acres in grain sorghum, 600 acres in irrigated corn and the rest in summer fallow. His irrigated corn is fed through the feedlot, either as grain or as silage.

He believes the no-till is paying off, even in the extremely dry conditions the region has experienced this year. He raised an average of 41 bushel wheat in 2006, well above what many farmers experienced. His grain sorghum after wheat has also averaged higher than conventionally tilled and harvested fields during the recent drought years.

The difference, he believes, lies in the straw.

"One of the great benefits of the stripper header is the wheat stubble it leaves for the milo," Hoeme said. "If there is good stubble, then you'll get a good, solid milo stand that maintains even in the dry years."

He has compared his stripper-cut fields with ones harvested with conventional or draper heads and has found significant differences. The advantages of the stripped straw is especially noticeable when conventional and stripper heads have been used in the same or adjacent fields.

“When I’ve hired wheat cut, the straw is low to the ground. Even when no-tilling into it, you can see a difference. The milo planted in that shorter straw is trying to burn up compared to the milo planted in the taller straw,” Hoeme said. “Take a probe and check it out. There’s more moisture in the taller straw.”

Moisture conservation wasn’t the reason Hoeme bought his first Shelbourne stripper header, however, the primary factor in that first purchase was harvesting efficiency.

Hoeme’s first stripper header was a CSV28 which he ran on a 7720 John Deere. He had two combines and ran both side by side in the same fields. His wheat averaged 60 bushel to the acre that year and he quickly saw the differences between the two headers. The 28-foot stripper head could not only cut more wheat per hour -- 1,000 bushel compared to 700 bushel with the 30-foot conventional head -- but the conventional header left trash in the field that caused problems when no-tilling in the next crop.  He now harvests approximately the same number of acres in the same amount of time with a 9660 STS John Deere and a CSV32 stripper header as he did with two combines. Hoeme believes yields also improve because the stripper header will pull in lighter heads that are lower in the field which the conventional header wouldn’t pick up or would spit out.

“The test weight might be a little lower with those lighter heads, but the bushels will end up being more from the field,” he said.

He is so convinced of the benefits of stripped straw that he has turned down offers of harvest help if a conventional or draper header will be used. “It’s really hard to turn a combine away, but it wasn’t doing as good of a job,” Hoeme said.

But, he believes the moisture retention from the taller, stripped stubble may be a more key production factor in his operation than harvesting efficiency. As decreasing water resources become more costly in southwest Kansas and the climate continues to work against farmers, being able to produce with limited moisture will be the difference between those farmers who make it and those who don’t, he said.

According to Hoeme, even when the taller stubble lays over and has a lower profile, it still will catch snow and trap moisture, perhaps even better than the standing straw will. He has taken a probe and checked moisture profiles between the standing and laid down straw and has found moisture at the four-foot depth in the standing straw and at the five-foot depth in the laid over straw. The taller standing stubble also provides shade for the young grain sorghum plants until they are well established, while at the same time slowing weed growth. His experience indicates that the twin benefits of moisture retention and sheltered growing conditions can improve grain sorghum production by 10 to 20 percent. He also has found that replanting is a rarity and that, if there is a downpour, the stubble stops runoff and soil erosion.

Hoeme uses a John Deere 1770 planter and has had few problems planting into the taller wheat stubble. When drilling wheat into stubble he tries not to move the stubble, however, with corn, he tries to move it away using Yetters so the ground warms up quicker. Heavy dew on heavy stubble can present problems, but those disappear when the dew dries off. He also avoids applying nitrogen directly on stubble as it will break it over.

“It is so nice to be able to go back with corn or milo into wheat stubble,” he said. “There is no comparison with the way it was before.”

Hoeme believes dryland no-till will be the future of southwest Kansas farms and that stripped straw will be the key to retaining the moisture to make it successful.

Follow us on facebook Follow us on twitter View our Youtube channel