MYTH BUSTED. The soil temperature reading in Ryan Stockwellâ??s no-till, cover-cropped soybeans (left) taken July 23, compared to conventionally tilled ground with corn (right) taken the same day.

Busting The Colder, Wetter Myth: Year 2

Soil temperatures were 0.1 to 1.75 F warmer in this no-tiller’s field during spring and summer compared to a neighbor’s conventionally tilled field.

A Wisconsin no-tiller says his second year of onfarm testing found his no-tilled, cover-cropped fields are generally the same temperature or warmer than his neighbor’s conventionally tilled fields.

Ryan Stockwell, who no-tills corn, soybeans and winter wheat near Medford, Wis., first delved into the “colder, wetter” myth last year when he took some soil-temperature measurements in his no-tilled, cover-cropped field with winter wheat, and in a neighbor’s conventionally tilled field.

With similar precipitation, drainage, slopes and soil types, he found the temperature reading for his neighbor’s heavily tilled soil was 54 F, and his own no-tilled, cover-cropped field stood at 63 F.

Using Protocol

 He took tests a step further this year, using a protocol set by cover-crop expert Dave Robison and conservation specialist Dan Perkins of the Jasper County, Ind., Soil and Water Conservation District to take measurements.

Starting April 22, Stockwell took soil-temperature readings for several months at random locations at a 4-inch depth — both in his no-tilled field with a terminated radish cover and from his neighbor’s fall-tilled field. He also took readings from his grass-covered lawn to provide a baseline.

Based on tests taken between April 22 and July 1, Stockwell found the average temperature in his no-tilled fields was about 1 F higher than the tilled field and nearly identical to lawn measurements. No-tilled soils measured between 0.19 F to 1.45 F warmer on 9 of the 12 sampling dates.Tilled-soils.jpg

Not Colder, Wetter

 Stockwell admits there has been some previous research suggesting the opposite…

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John dobberstein2

John Dobberstein

John Dobberstein was senior editor of No-Till Farmer magazine and the e-newsletter Dryland No-TillerHe previously covered agriculture for the Tulsa World and worked for daily newspapers in Chicago, Milwaukee and St. Joseph, Mich. He graduated with a B.A. in journalism and political science from Central Michigan University.

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