Agronomist: Consider History, Not Drought, During Fall Tillage

Farmers should consider the short- and long-term effects of fall tillage on their fields and not just the effects of the drought on this year’s crop, a Purdue Extension agronomist says.

Tillage loosens and rearranges soil aggregates with the intent of establishing a better foundation for crop seed placement and root growth, but the drought itself has already accomplished deep cracking and loosening of some soils. The drought also reduced the post-harvest crop residue that is often used as an additional justification for tillage.

“Tillage decisions should never be based on one year’s crop yield,” Tony Vyn said.

A farmer’s natural reaction to a drought year is disappointment, and that may lead to what Vyn called “revenge tillage.”

“I don’t want farmers to overestimate the need for fall tillage just because of the 2012 drought and poor crops,” he said. “It’s important to adopt a tillage system that leaves topsoil uniformly in place to build up a whole field’s resiliency in root-zone water retention over time.”

He urged farmers to exercise caution and always be aware of the soil loss risk, saying they should examine soil conditions and crop yields over a number of years when considering tillage.

“The early harvest may promote fall tillage, and the disappointment factor may further motivate farmers to till ground,” Vyn said. “But often we don’t know how an individual year’s yields would have changed with more or less tillage.

“It’s been consistent that there are very few yield-related reasons for doing fall tillage on well-drained soils in a corn-soybean rotation. There’s more justification when a field is on a corn-corn rotation or it has poorly drained soils. “

In addition to considering tillage in fields on a corn-corn rotation, Vyn recommended that farmers consider limited fall tillage for fields with a history of compaction, high clay content, lack of systematic drainage or fields with very slow-drying soils.

He also advised farmers to consider the risks of fall tillage on their fields, especially in sloped areas. They should consider the amount of topsoil that could be lost, and the future yield loss in those eroded areas, if they bury residue that could be left to provide protection from runoff.

“Tillage has a permanent effect that can forever change soil water-holding capability on slopes,” Vyn said.

Normally, the protective residue cover and greatly reduced soil disturbance associated with no-till mean less evaporation loss and higher soil water availability to roots. But this year, no-till fields did not provide as much protection against the drought as expected.

The early-season onset of high temperatures and lack of rain limited both root growth and shoot growth in 2012. Corn and soybean varieties differ in their relative rooting ability under stress conditions, but rooting in all varieties after the early seedling stage depends on energy reserves coming from shoot growth.

“The near-surface soil was so dry, lack of tillage meant more resistance to root penetration, meaning corn or soybean plants in those fields sometimes experienced more drought stress before flowering than other tilled fields, despite the crop residue cover,” Vyn said. “But we may never see such a severe, early drought occur with that combination of timing and high temperatures again.

“A later-season drought occurring after deep early root establishment would have favored no-till more.”

If farmers decide to practice fall tillage, they can choose from several management techniques. Standard primary tillage procedures include using a disk, chisel plow, deep ripper, moldboard plow or strip tiller.

Vyn said agronomists favor strip tillage because it allows for minimal soil mixing and residue incorporation while preparing fields for earlier seeding of spring crops, and it can be combined with fertilizer application.

“It’s a proven, versatile tillage practice that creates a warmer, drier zone of soil in the spring that ensures timely seed placement in both corn-soybean and corn-corn rotations,” Vyn said. “Precision automatic guidance systems have also simplified crop row placement in the center of the loosened strips.”

He said there’s still time yet for farmers to decide whether fall tillage is needed for their fields and that they shouldn’t rush the decision. With fall rains, farmers should be cautious and not rush fall tillage on soils that may be too wet.

Topics: ,

Leave a Reply

Crop Inputs Stories
Crop InputsPlatform Specialty Products To Acquire Arysta LifeScience
October 20, 2014
Once the acquisition is complete, Platform Specialty Products will combine Arysta LifeScience with previously acquired companies Agriphar and Chemtura Crop Solutions. Read More
MicronutrientsMicronutrients Going Macro
September 9, 2014
Between 2014’s fantastic growing conditions and a heightened awareness on plant nutrition, the major players in micronutrients are gearing up for another big year. Read More
FertilizerFall Fertility 2014: Forecasting Fertilizer Use
September 7, 2014
Great crops this year have tapped the soil, and fall work is definitely called for, but how challenging will that get? Read More
FungicidesSudden Death Syndrome, Brown Stem Rot Reported In Indiana Soybeans
September 3, 2014
Farmers and retailers should be watching for symptoms of these two diseases over the next few weeks as they are best managed through preventative methods. Read More
Top 100 Articles
CropLife 100The Andersons Acquires South Dakota Plant Nutrient Manufacturer Kay-Flo
May 20, 2015
The Andersons, Inc., ranked No. 22 on the CropLife 100, has purchased Kay Flo Industries of North Sioux City, SD. “This Read More
CropLife 100North Central Farmers Elevator, Wheat Growers Unification Approved By Board, Still Awaits Member Approval
May 13, 2015
The Boards of Directors for North Central Farmers Elevator (NCFE) and Wheat Growers (WG) have voted to approve the Unification Read More
CropLife 100AgGateway’s Barcoding Initiative Progressing Nicely
May 8, 2015
According to legend (or Wikipedia), the first step towards modern bar codes came back in 1948, when Bernard Silver, a Read More
CropLife 100Pinnacle Agriculture Acquires Minnesota Retailer
April 14, 2015
Pinnacle Agriculture Holdings, LLC, ranked No. 6 on the CropLife 100,  has successfully acquired Liebl Ag, LLC in Ada, MN.  Read More
CropLife 100CHS, Aurora Cooperative Complete Fertilizer Storage, Grain Shuttle Loading Facility
April 13, 2015
CHS Inc., the nation’s leading cooperative and ranked No. 5 on the CropLife 100, and Aurora Cooperative (ranked No. 21) Read More
CropLife 100GROWMARK Acquires Missouri Refined Fuels Terminal
April 2, 2015
Bloomington, IL-based GROWMARK and Magellan Pipeline Co. have entered into an agreement in which GROWMARK will acquire the refined fuels Read More
Latest News
Bayer CropScience, ILeVO
Crop InputsISU: ‘Halo Effect’ From ILeVO Soybean Seed …
May 28, 2015
Farmers who were lucky enough to plant soybeans and spray pre-emergence herbicides in between rain events may now be seeing Read More
ManagementCorn Planting/Monsanto-Syngenta Update; New PrecisionAg…
May 28, 2015
Eric Sfiligoj and Paul Schrimpf give updates on corn planting progress, the latest on Monsanto-Syngenta rumors and preview a brand Read More
Waterhemp in soybean stubble
HerbicidesEPA Signs Off On Monsanto’s Warrant Ultra Premix
May 27, 2015
Soybean and cotton growers looking for new tools to manage weeds will have a new, first-of-its-kind option in 2016 with Read More
Palmer pigweed seedhead in cotton
HerbicidesSTUDY: Weed Diversity Primarily Influenced By Geography
May 27, 2015
The potential long-term impacts of glyphosate-resistant crops on biodiversity of the agricultural landscape have been the subject of controversy. A Read More
Seed/BiotechAgrilead Forms Distribution Alliance With Kansas-Based …
May 27, 2015
Agrilead, Inc. announces the formation of a strategic alliance with KALO, Inc. of Overland Park, KS. Through the alliance, KALO Read More
EquipmentPrecision Tank Announces A&B Welding Acquisition
May 27, 2015
Precision Tank, a specialized tank and equipment manufacturer, announced today the acquisition of A&B Welding of Thompson, IA, a manufacturer Read More
Allied Cooperative Grain Plant
ManagementTraining Program Gives First Responders Skills For Grai…
May 27, 2015
When stored grain forms hard bridges, columns and other irregularities, those working to correct it find themselves at risk of Read More
Industry NewsBASF Sponsors Space Farming Research Project
May 26, 2015
Is it possible to produce large quantities of high quality vegetables on a space station, about 320 kilometers away from Read More
FertilizerTexas Ammonium Nitrate Bill Passes Senate, Heads To Gov…
May 26, 2015
The Texas State Senate gave final approval last Thursday to new regulations for ammonium nitrate, reports The Dallas Morning News Read More
Young corn plants
Industry NewsArysta Europe Details New Organizational Structure
May 26, 2015
Arysta LifeScience Europe recently announced a new organizational structure to leverage its scale and accelerate the company’s growth in this Read More
Syngenta Sign
Eric SfiligojMonsanto-Syngenta Could Hinge On A Judgment Of Solomon …
May 26, 2015
In the bible, the reputation of King Solomon’s wisdom in matters of despite comes from a tale of one child Read More
ManagementA New Sprayer Company & UAV Research In The Spotlig…
May 21, 2015
CropLife’s Paul Schrimpf and Eric Sfiligoj talk about a Dutch sprayer manufacturer entering the U.S. with a super-sized entry and Read More
HerbicidesFirst U.S. Sale Of Enlist Duo Herbicide Made By Dow Agr…
May 21, 2015
Dow AgroSciences has recorded the first U.S. sale of Enlist Duo herbicide with Colex-D Technology. This marks the first commercial Read More
CropLife 100The Andersons Acquires South Dakota Plant Nutrient Manu…
May 20, 2015
The Andersons, Inc., ranked No. 22 on the CropLife 100, has purchased Kay Flo Industries of North Sioux City, SD. “This Read More
EquipmentNORAC Options Coming To TerraGator
May 19, 2015
Utilizing NORAC’s Standard Control technology, boom height control is now available for TerraGators with Airmax Precision 2 and Benson Booms. This Read More
Crop InputsHelena Introduces New Soil Health Product
May 19, 2015
Helena Chemical Co. is helping agricultural producers maximize yields and efficiency with the introduction of Liquid Chisel, a new product Read More
Stewardship4R Nutrient Management Planning Certification Now Avail…
May 19, 2015
The American Society of Agronomy (ASA) and the International Certified Crop Adviser (ICCA) program announce a new specialty certification in Read More
Environmental Defense Fund logo
Paul SchrimpfEnvironmental Defense Fund: Appreciating Partners
May 19, 2015
I WAS deep in the throes of preparation for the Commodity Classic meeting that took place this past February, trying Read More