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Residue, Water Management Key to Winning No-Till Corn Yields

A protective blanket of ground cover and better water infiltration allow Tyler Franklin to irrigate crops with less water and boost soil health.


Pictured Above: MORE EFFICIENT. Tappahannock, Va., no-tiller Tyler Franklin estimates long-term no-till saves him about 3 inches of water per year on his irrigated fields. “Every time you run a disc, plow or offset disc, you’ve lost about an inch of moisture per pass,” he says. “If you have a season where it’s dry to start, you could really use that.”

Whether it's irrigation or dryland acreage, Tyler Franklin doesn’t believe high corn yields and no-till are mutually exclusive.

In fact, he’s found integrating no-till and cover crops on the family farm in eastern Virginia is saving valuable moisture and nutrients for his high-yielding corn.

He’s come close the last 2 years to hitting 300-bushel corn on both dryland and irrigated fields, without relying on tillage to manage heavy soils. No-till has been the rule on their farm for more than 20 years.

“I like looking down through the soybean crop and seeing last year’s corn crop, and sometimes you can find the soybean crop prior to that,” says Franklin, a sixth-generation farmer. “My main thing is to not disturb the environment below the ground. And I want water to infiltrate as fast as possible and not run off the soil surface.”

Taking Cover

Franklin and his father, Robert, no-till corn, soybeans and wheat on 1,000 acres near Tappahannock, Va., in the Chesapeake Bay region. About 40% of their corn and soybean acres are irrigated.

Situated near the Rappahannock River, about 60% of their fields are sandy loams and 40%…

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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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