Lessiter_Frank

Occasional Tillage Just Not a Good Option

Most no-tillers won’t want to hear it, but some University of Nebraska research indicates an occasional limited tillage pass won’t seriously damage no-till’s favorable soil structure. But with herbicide costs increasing significantly this year, we’ve heard that a few no-tillers are thinking of using a light tillage pass as a weed control option.

Don’t Get Me Wrong

I’m not advocating that no-tillers use any tillage. But maybe the consequences of making a single tillage trip across a no-till field isn’t the disaster you might have imagined. 

Charles Wortmann, a Nebraska soil and nutrient management specialist, says occasional tillage in a no-tilled field needs to deal with a specific objective. This could include controlling weeds, fracturing a soil compaction layer, incorporating lime or manure, reducing the vertical stratification of nutrient availability, eliminating ruts, increasing soil organic matter to a greater depth and dealing with heavy crop residue accumulation. 

Even so, he doesn’t recommend occasional tillage more than once every 5-10 years. This is based on several 5-year studies that compared five occasional tillage practices under no-till conditions.

An early concern among the researchers was that the many benefits to soil properties and productivity gained from continuous no-till would be lost with a tillage trip. Wortmann says the studies indicate any negative effects normally last less than 1 year. However, growers must also weigh the tillage cost and the increased risk of erosion until a crop canopy or residue cover is reestablished.

Yield Impact

Based on 35 trials where occasional tillage was…

To view the content, please subscribe or login.
 Premium content is for our Digital-only and Premium subscribers. A Print-only subscription doesn't qualify. Please purchase/upgrade a subscription with the Digital product to get access to all No-Till Farmer content and archives online. Learn more about the different versions and what is included.

Lessiter frank

Frank Lessiter

Frank Lessiter has served as editor of No-Till Farmer since the publication was launched in November of 1972. Raised on a six-generation Michigan Centennial Farm, he has spent his entire career in agricultural journalism. Lessiter is a dairy science graduate from Michigan State University.

Top Articles

Current Issue

NTF_June_0622_cover.jpg

No-Till Farmer

Get full access NOW to the most comprehensive, powerful and easy-to-use online resource for no-tillage practices. Just one good idea will pay for your subscription hundreds of times over.

Subscribe Now

View More

Must Read Free Eguides

Download these helpful knowledge building tools

View More
Top Directory Listings