One of the challenges I sometimes run into when researching story ideas and topics for No-Till Farmer is finding studies that are conducted under true no-till conditions. As you probably know by now, what works in conventional tillage or even strip-till may not work well in no-till, and vise versa.
But I was recently thumbing through Beck’s Hybrids’ Practical Farm Research (PFR) report for 2015 and was happy to find several studies that were conducted on pure no-till plots. Here are three no-till studies, conducted at the PFR location at the company’s headquarters in Atlanta, Ind., that yielded some interesting results.
1. Corn Planting Depth
The goal of this study was to examine how planting depth impacts plant population, emergence, yield and profitability. The corn was planted in 30-inch rows at 34,000 seeds per acre at 1, 2, 2.5 and 3 inches deep. A 1.5-inch planting depth served as the control.
The study concluded that going a little deeper was better than being too shallow. Corn planted at 3 inches yielded the highest at 227.4 bushels per acre, 18.2 bushels greater than the control plot. The corn planted 2.5 inches deep followed at 222.5 bushels per acre, while the 2-inch planted corn yielded 215.6 bushels per acre. The 1-inch planted corn yielded just 0.1 bushel less than the control.
PFR researchers noted that this long-term no-till plot had a compaction layer around the 3-inch depth and hypothesize that the deeper planting depth was better able to establish roots below that layer. This was the first year of the study and they plan on continuing it to establish multi-year data.
2. Allelopathy in Continuous Corn
This 2-year study was designed to test if, and to what extent, allelochemicals cause yield penalties when corn genetics and traits are repeated in the same location.
Beck’s used three of its hybrids, all planted at 32,000 seeds per acre in 30-inch rows, under both no-till and conventional tillage for 3 years in a row. They also planted those same hybrids after different hybrids from the year before to serve as the rotational comparison.
Based on the two harvests so far, the researchers believe rotating hybrids under no-till continuous corn is best to reduce the possibility of any allelopathic effects. In 2014, the greatest yield penalty for repeated hybrids under no-till was 3.4 bushels per acre.
But in 2015, that same hybrid saw a yield penalty of 14.1 bushels per acre compared to following a different hybrid. Another hybrid saw a 6.8-bushel reduction in 2015, while the third hybrid actually yielded 2 bushels higher than the same hybrid that followed a rotation.
3. Closing Wheels for Corn Planting
For the 2015 closing-wheel study, Beck’s tested S.I. Distributing Finger-Till Wheels, cast-iron wheels, Dawn Curvetines, Schaffert Zipper Wheels, Pro-Stitch Wheels, Copperhead Ag Furrow Cruisers and Yetter Spike Wheels against two rubber closing wheels as the control under all four planter closing-wheel notch pressure settings.
The goal was to test the wheels in less than ideal no-till conditions, which the researchers were able to do.
All of the closing wheels outperformed the rubber closing wheels. The researchers say the S.I. Distributing Finger-Till wheels performed the best across all pressure settings, with an overall yield advantage of 25.9 bushels per acre, but different wheels performed better at different settings. They saw the best yield gains across all closing wheel combinations at the third notch pressure setting.
For more information on these studies and others, visit the PFR section on Beck’s Hybrids website.