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An extensive historical analysis of no-till corn yields vs. the yields from conventionally tilled fields indicates that no-tilling holds its own and even out-performs conventional tillage methods in many areas of the country.
Michael DeFelice, senior marketing manager for Pioneer Hi-Bred International, compared corn yields by tillage practices from 61 trials that represented 687 site-years of data. He found that the national average yield difference between no-tilled and conventional-tillage corn was a negligible 0.5 percent advantage for conventional tillage.
No-till corn is the hands-down winner for producers in the southeastern, southern and western United States, where the no-till yield advantage was more than 12 percent.
“The data plot agrees with the general opinion that no-till corn performs better in the southern United States than in the north,” DeFelice says.
But what might raise a few eyebrows is the comparison of the two production methods in other areas of the country. “The summary of data indicates no-till is equivalent in performance to conventional tillage into the central United States, with only the most northerly areas of the Corn Belt showing a negative yield response to no-till,” he says.
One reason why no-till corn wins out is soil drainage. “No-till had slightly greater corn yields than conventional tillage on moderate- to well-drained soils, but lower corn yields than conventional tillage on poorly drained soils,” DeFelice notes.
The study looked at all trials that used a close variant of a true no-till system with minimal surface disturbance at planting and during…