Iowa No-Till A Surprise

While some people have suspected that the no-till acreage has been declining, results of a recent survey in Iowa indicate it was virtually unchanged between 1997 and 1999. Even so, the number of Iowa farmers who are using valuable soil conservation practices appears to be leveling off.

Late last year, the Iowa Residue Management Partnership sent a survey to 722 corn and soybean farmers in 18 Iowa counties. Some 340 of these farmers answered the questions.

The fact that Iowa farmers were neither expanding or abandoning no-till acres came as a surprise. “Quite honestly, we were expecting to actually see a decrease in no-till acres,” says Pete Hill, a field agronomist with Monsanto, and a member of the survey group.

Earlier Concerns

An analysis of Iowa fields in 1998 had indicated farmers were leaving less corn stubble in fields and that there had been a 12 percent decline in the use of conservation practices from the previous year. Yet a year later, the new survey found virtually no change in the number of no-tilled acres.

However, a spot check of fields in these 18 Iowa counties made earlier this year by another group indicates that both no-till corn and soybean acres increased this year.

Why Till?

Reasons that farmers cited for using tillage included favorable fall field conditions, a narrow spring planting window, listening to the views of local equipment dealers and concerns about herbicide effectiveness.

Perceived no-till problems included worries over soil temperatures, stratification of soil pH, seedbed condition…

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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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