Vertical Tillage Speeds Planting, Doesn’t Increase Soybean Yields

Study by Michigan State University Extension finds these tools might improve spring field conditions or soybean emergence, but too many passes could reduce no-till benefits.

Vertical tillage tools can be valuable for sizing and anchoring no-till residue and improving seedbed conditions for planting, according to a recent study by Michigan State University Extension.

But running these tools ahead of planting didn’t have a substantial effect on soybean yields, say Michigan State ag engineer Tim Harrigan and Extension Educator Marilyn Thelen.

Five Machines.

In 10 onfarm strip trials conducted from 2012-14 in no-tilled fields, Michigan State researchers measured soybean emergence, final plant population and grain yield in several Michigan fields following operations with a Great Plains Turbo-Till, Case IH 330 Turbo, Salford RTS, Summers SuperCoulter Plus and Landoll 7450.

Soybeans were planted in populations of 160,000-180,000 seeds per acre, and row spacings ranged form 7½-20 inches. Researchers made side-by-side comparisons, including one or two tillage passes in the fall, one or two tillage passes in the spring, one pass each in the spring and fall and no-till planting into corn residue.

Soils in these fields ranged from loam to sandy loam to clay loam. The first stand counts were within 7-10 days of planting, and subsequent counts were at one-week intervals until the plant population leveled off. In most cases, spring tillage was on the day before or day of planting.

The Bottom Line.

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SMOOTHING OUT. St. Johns, Mich., no-tiller Lee Thelen pulls a Salford RTS vertical tillage tool through corn stalks during Michigan State University Extension’s study of vertical tillage. Researchers found vertical tillage can improve field conditions for planting, but the practice had little

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John-dobberstein2

John Dobberstein

John Dobberstein is 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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