Don’t Rush Tillage Changes

If you or some of your neighbors are getting fed up with the results of no-tilling corn into cold and wet soils, take a close look at recent Ohio State University yield numbers before reaching any decision on changing tillage practices.

Many farmers have become frustrated with no-till in recent years because of wet, cold spring weather which delays planting on poorly-drained soils. With crop residue left on the surface with no-till, this limits the soil’s ability to dry and warm up for timely planting.

While it hasn’t happened lately in some areas, a spring drought can boost the benefits of no-till since this reduced tillage system will conserve soil moisture and pull crops through dry weather.

Three years of data from corn plots grown on a Hoytville silty clay loam in northwestern Ohio show no-till corn yields are as favorable as those from seven other tillage practices. In fact, other tillage practices had no positive effect on yields in any given year when compared to no-till, says Paul Houdashelt, manager of the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center Northwestern Branch in Wood County, Ohio.

Yield results from this three-year trial are shown in the No-Till-Age chart at left. This study was started at the suggestion of area farmers looking for tillage system answers. The study was repeated in 1998 and the project will be evaluated to see whether more information can be learned from continuing the study.

While the yield study didn’t look specifically at economics, Ohio State University…

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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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