Have No-Tilled Soybeans Proven Too Successful?

Maybe it’s time to take a closer look at adding new crops to the more traditional no-till corn and soybean rotation.

While No-Tillers have long been among the leaders in sustainable agriculture, Gyles Randall is convinced that many no-tillers need to consider growing more than just corn and soybeans.

The soil scientist at the Southern Research and Outreach Center of the University of Minnesota in Waseca, Minn., sees serious problems with corn and soybean rotations in southern Minnesota. In fact, he questions whether this intensive rotation is even sustainable when you look at it from an economic, environmental, ecological and sociological perspective.

Randall isn’t alone

A number of no-tillers and researchers in recent years have been extolling the benefits of expanding rotations for long-term no-till success. Yet a concern has been that other crops haven’t proven as profitable even with low corn and soybeans prices.

Another concern is that some diversified rotations include crops that are more suited for livestock producers. Yet some speciality cash crops could be added to many no-till rotations.

Two Tough Years

In 30 years as a soil scientist, Randall maintains that he’s never seen so much soil erosion in south central and southeastern Minnesota as during the past few years. He attributes much of the problem to a tremendous increase in soybean acres at the expense of growing fewer acres of alfalfa, pasture and small grains.

Randall says this shift to more soybeans has been accompanied by:

  1. Fewer and larger farm operations.
  2. Fewer livestock farms.
  3. More pest problems, such as soybean cyst nematode, white mold, soybean aphids and weed population shifts.
  4. Increased iron chlorosis pressure.
  5. Commodity…
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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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