A Tumbling T Ranches
Agua Fria – New River Natural Resource Conservation District (NRCD)
Ron Rayner is a third-generation farmer and a partner in “A Tumbling T Ranches” with his brothers Earle and Robert, as well as his two nephews, John and Perry. The Rayners grow cotton, alfalfa and grains in the Goodyear and Gila Bend areas of western Arizona on approximately 6,000 acres, and they also own another 3,200 acres of farmland in California near Exeter and Five Points of which they lease a portion to other growers.
Through their many years of farming, Rayner and his brothers developed and adopted a unique conservation tillage system for their entire Arizona operation. In 1996, they began planting cotton with a no-till planter and using limited tillage to complete their rotation between alfalfa, durum wheat, cotton and sorghum silage. This “conservation agricultural system” includes no-till planting after harvesting wheat, crop rotation, border flood irrigation and a conservation tillage system. Rayner notes that plowing is only necessary when newly acquired fields are ready for planting.
As Arizona has been under an official statewide drought for about 18 consecutive years, water conservation is a high priority. The farm’s main water source is groundwater, and due to the higher organic matter in the soils due to the crop rotation, Rayner has been able to reduce crop water use. His no-till operation has also assisted in maintaining moisture in his fields as well as protected the soil surface from extremely high temperatures, which then protects the crop from heat stress.
Rayner’s farming system of minimum-till and crop rotation also plays a huge role in his pest management – reducing weed pressure and having fewer soil-related diseases. Planting Bt cotton (a genetically modified variety which produces an insecticide to bollworm) has also been an important part of this system, reducing the amount of insecticide spray used and, in some years, eliminating it altogether.
Rayner attributes the family farm’s success to a great family partnership that started back with Rayner’s parents in the 1940s, but his wife Heather (pictured at right with Ron) observes that their willingness to make changes to their operation over the years has also helped keep the farm profitable as they continue to find ways to farm better.
Posted April 2019.