Should You No-Till Sod Ground?

If high grain prices have you thinking about shifting Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) pasture or hay ground back into more lucrative crop production, don’t think you have to revert to tillage to make the transition. No-tillers across the country have found it’s not that difficult to get grass fields back into production without tillage.

Jim Nollmeyer of Reardan, Wash., has successfully no-tilled winter canola into CRP ground. “The most important thing to remember is to treat the operation as a complete system just like with any crop,” he says. “You’ll need to control pre-seed growth, manage the aboveground residue, optimize moisture and fertility, use good-quality seed and do everything you can to put the seed where it needs to be.”

When seeding, Nollmeyer says you must get out of the tractor cab frequently to make sure there’s good seed-to-soil contact. This is particularly critical when no-tilling in heavy residue.

While decaying sod and a buildup of thick thatch won’t automatically provide an ideal seedbed, he sees significant benefits with no-till compared to using tillage.

Plan Ahead

Rick Taillieu says the first step in making the decision to no-till into sod is to recognize that not all field conditions are created equal. The agronomist with RT Linkages in Olds, Alberta, says this means checking the condition of the sod, knowing what grass and weed species are present, deciding on which herbicides to use, evaluating fertility levels and determining what seeding equipment to use.

He urges no-tillers not to expect quick miracles…

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Frank Lessiter

Frank Lessiter has served as editor of No-Till Farmer since the publication was launched in November of 1972. Raised on a six-generation Michigan Centennial Farm, he has spent his entire career in agricultural journalism. Lessiter is a dairy science graduate from Michigan State University.

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