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Long-Term No-Till Plots Unlock Secrets of the Soil

Southern Illinois University researchers share data that explains the efficiency and effectiveness of no-till systems when it comes to profitable yields, nutrient cycling, earthworm populations and more.


Pictured Above: NO-TILL COMPETITIVE. Forty years of research data at Southern Illinois University’s Belleville Research Center shows that yields for both continuous corn and corn rotated with soybeans, when properly fertilized, were roughly the same in no-tilled plots as those with rotational no-till, chisel plow or moldboard plow treatments. – Southern Illinois University

LONG-TERM DATA from one of the oldest sets of no-till research plots in the U.S. has unearthed a number of interesting findings that confirm no-tilled soils become more efficient and productive over time and do a better job of storing carbon than with tilled fields.

Dane Hunter, farm manager of Southern Illinois University’s Belleville Research Center, and SIU graduate student Amanda Weidhuner shared important data and interesting anecdotes coming from research of tillage practices, fertility, corn and soybean yields, earthworms, soil aggregation and soil biology. The plots were in continuous corn starting in 1970 and soybeans were added in rotation with corn in 1991.

The center’s small plots have four tillage treatments — conventional, alternate (2 years no-till, 1 year conventional), chisel plow and 100% no-till. Fertility treatments include check plots with no fertilization, nitrogen (N) only (175-0-0) and a full-rate, full-spectrum broadcast application (175-80-180) that includes N, phosphorus (P) and potassium (K), with fertilizer only spread in corn years.

Here’s a list of 8 developments they shared with attendees at the National No-Tillage Conference earlier this year. 

1. Boosting Corn Yields

Corn yields measured after 40 years were much higher with N-P-K added than with no…

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John dobberstein2

John Dobberstein

John Dobberstein is senior editor of No-Till Farmer magazine and the e-newsletter Dryland No-TillerHe previously covered agriculture for the Tulsa World and worked for daily newspapers in Chicago, Milwaukee and St. Joseph, Mich. He graduated with a B.A. in journalism and political science from Central Michigan University.

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