To gain needed management experience and research data, University of Nebraska researchers established a long-term tillage study in 1981. The 2006 cropping year marked the 26th year of the study at the Rogers Memorial Farm that is 10 miles east of Lincoln.
“These research and demonstration plots are showing that long-term no-till builds soil structure, usually has the highest yield and is the most profitable,” says Paul Jasa, a University of Nebraska ag engineer. “Long-term no-till also has more residue cover, less soil crusting, improved water infiltration rates and less runoff, which makes rainfall more effective.”
Following the 20th year of the study, an economic analysis was conducted to evaluate the impact of tillage on profitability with the grain sorghum and soybean rotation. Using custom rates for field operations, existing management inputs and commodity prices, expenses were calculated for each system. No evaluation was made for taxes, insurance, land costs or government payments, but grain sale income was determined to provide a return to land and management.
For the soybean and grain sorghum rotation, returns averaged $144 per acre with no-till, $40 an acre more profitable than the typical double-disc system that returned $104 per acre. The no-till savings was due to lower input costs because of reduced tillage and higher yields due to improved water usage.
Jasa says the double-disc system’s return to land and management was below $70 per acre during 3 years for soybeans and 7 years for grain sorghum. During the same 20-year…