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As No-Tillers get ready for field work this spring, they need to think about the practices they’re deploying and whether those will help them achieve their yield and profit goals.
When it comes to succeeding with continuous no-till, challenges do exist — as well as opportunities to increase profitability, because you’ve eliminated tillage passes and the associated financial and soil-health costs.
No-till systems alone can present challenges, and yield can be at risk if not managed properly.
But also remember that soils with high organic matter, greater infiltration rates and more biological activity,which can be achieved through no-till, can store 4-8 inches of additional moisture that’s available during the growing season. That could provide a significant yield increase and a buffer against plant stress.
Heavier black soils are a challenge for no-tillers in the spring, but they can be overcome if no-tillers strive to build healthy soils with at least 3-4% organic matter; manage for a neutral pH and low salinity; and strive for good structure and aggregate stability.
Installing tile drainage, managing residue properly, equipping the planter with the proper no-till attachments, and planting when soil conditions feel right are other pieces of the puzzle.
Soil compaction is a risk with heavy equipment or trafficking when soil is wet. If compaction exists, remedy it in the fall before moving to no-till.
While winter freeze-thaw cycles help, compaction should be taken care of initially with ripping, followed by seeding cover crops and following proper equipment trafficking…