Regardless of what tillage system was used, no-till consistently provided a moisture advantage over a 3-year period in the Mid-Atlantic Cropping Systems Project at Port Royal, Va.
The project is sponsored by a small group of farm owners with acreage on the south side of the Rappahannock River. It was programmed to analyze the economic benefits of three cropping systems. The research is done by extension specialists from Virginia Tech in plots that measure 60 by 2,000 feet and encompass four soils over the coastal plain bottomland.
The subsoil of two Wickham soils benefit from stronger clay-bed support, which helps hold moisture near the plant roots longer than with two Bojac soils where clay deposits are considerably less.
The three cropping rotations include:
1. No-till corn, conventionally tilled wheat and no-till double-crop soybeans (three crops in 2 years).
2. No-till corn, no-till full-season soybeans, no-till wheat and no-till double-crop soybeans (four crops in 3 years).
3. No-till barley, no-till double-crop corn, no-till wheat and no-till double-crop soybeans (four crops in 2 years).
Because of moisture retention, Virginia agronomist Jim Pease says wheat, soybean and corn yields were far better with the Wickham soils than the Bojac soils. Returns per acre were more than twice as high for the Wickham soils.
During a recent tour of the plots, Ron Mulford outlined some challenges that no-tillers would face in trying to grow four crops in the 2-year system. For instance, the manager of the University of Maryland’s Lower Eastern…