Which Should You No-Till First? Corn? Or Soybeans?

More no-tillers are wondering which crop should go in the ground first.

Tradition says you’ll probably no-till corn before thinking about no-tilling soybeans. Yet more growers are questioning this conventional wisdom.

Steve Prochaska says there are numerous benefits to no-tilling either crop early into dry soils. Even so, the extension advisor in Crawford County, Ohio, says you need to recognize that the risks of no-tilling very early vary from crop to crop. As a result, he’s developed a risk and benefit analysis that outlines the pros and cons for earlier planting with both corn and beans. (See the four accompanying boxes.)

Timeliness Is Critical. As no-tillers increase their knowledge, gain more experience and adapt new technology, Prochaska says, both corn and soybeans are definitely being no-tilled earlier. And he’s found numerous reasons to consider no-tilling soybeans before corn.

“With farm size increasing and many farmers working off the farm, it is imperative to effectively utilize all available planting days,” he says. “One of the impediments to large or small-farm operation success is the lack of planting time on dry soils.”

Prochaska says seeding both corn and soybeans into wet soils is much more of a concern for farmers relying on extensive tillage. “Planting on wet soils is a disaster that not only robs crop yields, but forces additional tillage to rectify damage,” he says. “And more tillage creates the potential for greater soil erosion and reduced farm profit.”

More Bean Benefits. “Realizing that there are additional windows of opportunity to replant soybeans or repair poor stands, you realistically have one chance to…

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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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