No-Till Wheat Is Working

One of the more fascinating ideas coming out of a recent University of Kentucky study is the impact that no-tilled wheat apparently has on future crop yields. In fact, Kentucky agronomist Lloyd Murdock has found corn and soybeans yield more where they follow no-tilled wheat.

“Soybean yields averaged 3.8 percent higher after no-till wheat,” says the agronomist located at Princeton, Ky. “Corn yields averaged 6.5 percent higher after no-tilled wheat.”

While Murdock says the cause for the differences in yields between no-till and conventional tillage isn’t known, it’s probably related to increased soil water availability with no-tilled wheat.

No Easy Answers.

Even though 7 years of research by Murdock has proven that no-tilled wheat can be more profitable in any given year, the overall yield results still favor conventional tillage by a few bushels per acre.

In 1998-1999 studies, Murdock found no significant differences between yields with no-tilled and conventionally tilled wheat. The highest yielding treatment was no-tilled wheat with an application of 120 pounds of nitrogen per acre.

Yet the overall results indicated that yields from conventional tillage were 2 bushels per acre higher. The 7 year average is 5 bushels more wheat per acre with conventional tillage.

When all plots were planted at the same rate, Murdock found there were there only 10 percent less plants in the no-till plots. He found very little difference in the soil density between the tillage systems, while soil strength was significantly higher with no-till at a 0- to 6-inch depth.


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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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