Flat, Table-Top Fields Need Moisture-Driven Management

Illinois strip-tiller shares lessons he learned while struggling with bad weather and cold, wet fields.

Too much water can keep planters and combines out of the field, leech away nutrients and drown crops, yet farmers still need it to grow crops. The trick, strip-tiller Scott Davidson says, is to manage moisture where you can and avoid planting when conditions aren’t right.

Davidson, who farms 540 acres of corn and soybeans near Dalton City, Ill., says the one water problem he doesn’t have is erosion.

“There’s 1% of slope or less and the dirt is absolutely black,” he says.

When Davidson started no-tilling in 1991, he found the dark soil remained cold and wet longer. Initially he forced the issue, even taking a spade with him to dig mud out of the planter.

“I realized I needed to go home, even though the conventional guys had been out for 2 or 3 days,” Davidson says. “I learned how to gauge soil moisture and determine if I needed to go planting or go fishing.”

Poor seedbed formation and visible ruts are just some of the issues created by planting wet fields.

“Even if you don’t see ruts, you create compaction that will be an ongoing problem,” Davidson says. “Plus, when you squeeze air out of mud, it fractures when it dries and creates seedbed problems. You have to stay out of the field when it’s wet.”

Davidson’s father is a pilot and he could see the results of wet planting from the air.

“When the fields are worked wet, the crop is yellow and spotty. You can…

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Martha mintz new

Martha Mintz

Since 2011, Martha has authored the highly popular “What I’ve Learned About No-Till” series that has appeared in every issue of No-Till Farmer since August of 2002.

Growing up on a cattle ranch in southeastern Montana, Martha is a talented ag writer and photographer who lives with her family in Billings, Montana.

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