Cultivation Helps Cool-Climate No-Tillers

Cultivation and proper herbicide use helps boost yields for this Minnesota farmer.

With timely cultivation that incorporates the application of banded and encapsulated herbicides in cooler climates, some no-tillers can boost their bottom lines, says Faribault, Minn., no-tiller John Derham.

Derham no-tills 1,400 acres of corn and soybeans in southern Minnesota with the help of a Hiniker no-till cultivator that he adapted to his weather and soil conditions.

“I have customized my cultivator by adding banding and spraying attachments,” says Derham, a grower in the Northern Corn Belt. “At cultivation, this gives me more flexibility while I save money.”

Justifying Method

Derham admits that some no-tillers may cringe at the thought of any soil disturbance. However, he says the cooler year-round temperatures in the upper Midwest create problems with residue breakdown and weed control, thereby justifying minimal cultivation to address those concerns.

“In our area of the country, it stays colder here all year,” he says. “When we leave the residue on the surface, it won’t break down and it tangles up in our corn planter.

“Those stalks will stay there for four years without breaking down, but touch them with a cultivator and they’re gone.”

Gone are the headaches caused by residue tangling with planters, row units and sprayers. Derham’s management goals are to hold down herbicide expenses, limit erosion and increase yield by improving soil health through minimal cultivation.

“I have always cultivated for a couple of reasons,” Derham says. “It increases the breakdown of crop residue by incorporating oxygen into the top few inches of the soil, where more…

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