No-Till For The Long Haul

Avoid undoing years of continuous no-till benefits with one pass of the field cultivator just to fit new crop rotations.

Many produces have been adjusting their cropping practices to take advantage of record commodity prices. A record 2007 corn crop is a prime example of how producers, responding to strong demand and high prices, can quickly shift their production.

But any adjustments, especially in the area of tillage, should be carefully considered. After all, one pass with a cultivator can undo several years of no-till soil benefits.

“No-till is a dynamic system — it changes over time,” says Dan Towery, president of Ag Conservation Solutions in Lafayette, Ind. “Some equipment and management decisions need to change as soil properties change over time. It should be evaluated on a long-term, crop-production cycle.”

And continuous no-till isn’t a yearly practice, it’s a long-term commitment, Towery says.

No doubt that 2007 provided some significant returns for corn growers. And some producers may have adopted tillage on a corn-on-corn rotation versus a continuous no-till rotation of corn and soybeans.

Changing out of the normal rotation patterns to take advantage of higher corn prices may have provided short-term gains, but it’s the long-term investment in the health of your soils that’s more important, Towery insists.

“For a no-till producer, it can take 5 to 8 years to fully recognize the multiple soil benefits of no-till,” Towery says. “Much will depend on the area of the country, crop rotation and weather. It takes time to improve soil structure, pore space and increase organic matter levels. Improved pore space provides oxygen to the roots, which is needed…

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