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With one of the Midwest’s longest-running studies of tillage methods and fertility coming to an end, Southern Illinois University researchers at Carbondale, Ill., can tell farmers three things for sure:
More than 30 years in the making, the findings are a little anticlimactic, admits agronomist Edward C. Varsa who, with former weed scientist George Kapusta, oversaw most of the research. Varsa estimates that U.S. farmers no-till nearly 25 percent of their corn and over 55 percent of soybeans.
But when these studies first began, no one knew much about this reduced-tillage practice. “No-till had just gotten out of the research stage and into the field,” Varsa recalls. “There was no information dealing with long-term effects. That’s why George’s contacts in the industry wanted him to do this study.”
Kapusta set up four groups of continuous corn plots:
“Within the first 5 to 10 years…