Harvest Decisions Set Stage For No-Till Planting

Controlled traffic, GPS guidance and crop rotation can help no-tillers deal with corn residue levels and avoid over-processing and erosion.

The decisions we make about stalk management affect the performance of our no-till systems, and definitely impact the amount of erosion in our fields.

Our goal is to process stalks enough for efficient planting, but to have stalks available throughout the growing season to protect fields from erosion.

Here are some decisions and points to consider before harvest, with all-important spring planting in mind.

Decisions At Harvest

It pays to think about how your corn head processes stalks, and how combine speed impacts how the corn stalks are left.

Wheel traffic due to wide combine tires and tracks can affect a high percentage of the rows in each combine pass. Head speed and roll design also largely impact stalk conditions.

You must decide what you’re trying to accomplish with your harvest passes.

On our farm, I’m trying to harvest the ear and leave the stalk intact as much as possible so it’s still upright when I’m planting and I’m not dealing with all the residue on the ground. I’m trying to destroy the crop, but leave it there to protect my farm.

We could run a processing head, but that would require tons more horsepower and fuel. And I’m not sure the soil would warm up very fast in the spring because we’d have a big blanket of residue on the soil surface.

So a moderately aggressive chopping roll that processes the leaves and the upper part of the stalk works fine for us.

As combines become larger, they can…

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Leverich jim

Jim Leverich

No-Till Farmer's Conservation Ag Operator Fellow for 2022, Jim Leverich is a no-till farmer near Sparta, Wis. His 1,000 acre-farm has been in his family since 1864 and no-tilled since 1984. An innovator and educator, Leverich has 35-plus years of no-till and on-farm research experience, and possesses a deep, practical understanding of what makes no-till work. For his contributions while at the University of Wisconsin Cooperative Extension Service, Leverich was named the No-Till Innovator of the Year (Research & Education category) in 2006. A talented presenter and writer, Leverich was a regular guest columnist for No-Till Farmer in 2011 when it earned the Gold Medal as the nation’s top newsletter from the American Society of Business Press Editors.

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