What If 100% of Midwest Farmers No-Tilled?

If 100% of Midwest farmers switched to no-till, they’d prevent billions of tons of soil loss over the next 100 years, according to a research model from the University of Massachusetts Amherst.

At the current rate of tillage, the Midwest is projected to lose 8.8 billion metric tons of soil over the next 100 years. But if all farmers switched to minimal tillage or no-till, they’d reduce projected soil losses by 95%.

“The pace of loss would be so significantly slowed down by these measures that it would take 10,000 years to reach the levels of soil loss that will unfold in just a century if regional farming methods don’t change at all,” says an article from Anthropocene magazine about the research study.

53% of Most Profitable Illinois Soybean Fields Are No-Tilled

Less is more when it comes to tillage and profitability, says a report from the Illinois Precision Conservation Management program. “The Business Case for Conservation,” a summary of Illinois farmer data from 2015-22, says more than half of the most profitable Illinois farmers are no-tilling soybeans.

An analysis of 1,156 soybean fields found 53% of the most profitable fields were no-tilled. Only 8% of the most profitable soybean fields were managed with 3 or more tillage passes. As for corn, 51% of the most profitable fields were managed with minimal tillage.

Right Fungicide Application Timing Shows $17 Per Acre ROI

Timing is a critical factor for fungicide applications in soybeans. According to Beck’s Practical Farm Research (PFR) data, applying a fungicide at the R3 growth stage shows a return on investment of $17.68 per acre.

Beck’s also found that the time of day a fungicide application is made can also impact final soybean yields. Trials conducted over 3 years at multiple locations showed a $12.97 per acre advantage when fungicide was sprayed at 8.a.m. vs. $7.63 per acre at 3 p.m.

Deep Soil Testing Can Cut Fertilizer Costs

Deep soil testing may pay off more this year than many, according to a recently released Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service publication.

By deep soil testing before planting corn, cotton and wheat, the AgriLife Extension analysis found projected savings from $13-$189 per acre are possible when taking advantage of the residual nitrogen (N) in the soil and accounting for it when making growing-season decisions.

“Deep soil sampling to depths of 6-24 inches or deeper, if feasible, should be done whenever possible,” says Texas A&M agronomist Jourdan Bell. “This allows producers to utilize the N below the upper 6 inches of soil.”

Wildfire Smoke Could Affect Crop Yields

Smoke from hundreds of wildfires burning in Canada blanketed many areas of the Midwest and the East Coast in June and July. Mark Jeschke, agronomist at Pioneer, says it’s extremely difficult to determine the impact of smoke on crop yields, but smoke does reduce sunlight intensity and increase ozone levels, both of which are bad for crops. Less light can be detrimental to crop productivity, and ground-level ozone causes more damage to plants than all other air pollutants combined.

However, smoke also scatters incoming light, which could increase plants’ light use efficiency. Jeschke says the potential effect of more diffuse light depends on characteristics of the canopy, and taller plants would likely benefit more.

No-Tiller Feels ‘Moral Obligation’ to Advocate for Conservation Ag

Havel, Ill., no-tiller Dick Lyons is asking Illinois lawmakers to pass a bill that would include funding for adopting no-till, strip-till and cover crops. His support comes after a deadly dust storm crash on Interstate 55 in central Illinois caused by soil blowing off a tilled field.

“I don’t know if it did any good, but to me, conservation is a moral obligation,” Lyons told Illinois Farmer Today in an interview about his letter asking for passage of Illinois state bill 1701.

The bill supports soil and water conservation districts in every county in Illinois and includes funding to encourage the adoption of conservation practices.

Run Ag Tires at Single-Digit PSIs

Many no-tillers are hesitant to run ag tires at single-digit PSIs for fear of damaging the tire, but tire manufacturers say the lowest safest field air pressure will provide the best crop yield.

“Ag tires need to operate at the lowest air pressure possible to reduce the effect of the machine weight on the soil, decreasing the ground pressure and soil compaction, and improving growers’ yields,” says Greg Gilland from Maxam Tire International.

Remember, once out of the field and on the road, air pressures must be increased to handle the machine’s weight at road speed.