Continuous No-Till Corn Works

While some farmers tend to have difficulty no-tilling corn in rotations, a pair of Purdue University researchers are finding row cleaners and avoiding planting in the old rows can make continuous no-till corn feasible. In addition, some ideas they’ve come up with can help if you are following a more traditional crop rotation.

Agronomists Terry West and Gary Steinhardt say these two basic techniques improve the no-till seedbed and seed placement. The row cleaners remove residue so new corn rows can be no-tilled 6 to 15 inches away from the previous year’s rows.

It’s Murder!

While proper planting will improve continuous corn yields with no-till, the two men say it may not push yields as high as those that can be harvested from rotated fields.

Planting continuous no-till corn is not a popular practice since yields may drop 15 percent to 20 percent compared to rotating no-till corn. Problems arise because large amounts of corn residue keep the soil too cool for proper germination. Nonuniform seed depth, residue hairpinning and uneven emergence may lower yields.

Yet farmers who need grain and/or silage for livestock may have little choice than to go the continuous no-tilled corn route. For these folks and others considering going to continuous corn, tests at Purdue’s Agronomy Research Center show planting off the old row with row cleaners can definitely boost yields:

• Corn planted in an area that had been fall chisel plowed produced 158 bushels per acre in 1996 and 159 bushels in 1997.


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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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