No-Till, Strip-Till Can Compete With Chisel Systems

Ongoing research at the University of Wisconsin has given us insight about the production and economic differences between chisel plow, strip-till and no-till. Dick Wolkowski, Department of Soil Science, has researched these conservation-tillage systems for more than 10 years.

Recently, Tom Cox, Department of Agricultural and Applied Economics, and I did a thorough economic study of Wolkowski’s research. Last month, we discussed production insights. This month, we’ll hit on the economic implications.

To study economic differences between chisel, strip-till and no-till, we developed partial budgets to estimate production costs for variable inputs (i.e., seed, fertilizer, fuel, etc.), land and equipment. Custom rates from 2007 were used to estimate equipment costs.

We determined the total cost of production for each system and then calculated a cost of production per bushel based on the average yield for each system during the entire 10-year study.

The values used in the cost estimates were averaged at the time we prepared the budgets. Values may vary throughout time, but they give us a good estimate of economic differences between conservation-tillage systems studied at the Arlington Research Station.

As shown in Table 1, cost of production per bushel is higher for chisel and strip-till systems than no-till. Using these assumptions, no-till can yield 8.4 bushels less and strip-till 7.5 bushels less than chisel, yet each would be as profitable as a chisel system.

Note that though yields in these systems were averages over a 10-year period, no-till plots had more variation than chisel or strip-till. This…

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Jim Leverich

Jim Leverich no-tills near Sparta, Wis., and serves as an onfarm research coordinator for the University of Wisconsin.

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