Iowa growers advised to avoid tillage this fall

decrease font size  Resize text   increase font size       Printer-friendly version of this article Printer-friendly version of this article

As the harvest season is getting close, there are a few things we need to keep in mind this fall with regard to soil conservation concerns. Soil conditions are dry across the state. If they continue, it can be advantageous during harvest by reducing potential soil compaction.

So, if the rationale for tillage is to reduce soil compaction, it is not valid. Therefore, pay attention to tillage intensity after harvest; tillage affects soil conditions and destroys soil structure, which can create significant problems. Tillage accelerates organic matter loss, which results in more problems of accelerating soil erosion and surface runoff.

Those changes in soil condition with tillage during rain events after harvest can also reduce soil profile recharge due to increased surface run off.

Leaving crop residue on the soil surface has many benefits not only in minimizing future negative effects of soil erosion and sediment and nutrient losses, but also works as an effective method of trapping soil moisture, which later easily penetrates into the soil and recharges the soil profile. Tillage of any kind damages the soil by reducing the residue cover and its effect in protecting the soil surface.

A common misconception is that shredding or incorporating residue with tillage will enhance soil organic matter or improve other physical and biological properties, which are essential to a well-functioning soil. However, research documents that crop residue can be most effective when left intact on the soil surface protecting soil quality, such as soil structure, water infiltration, soil moisture holding capacity, and soil bulk density to name few.

During dry conditions, removing residue or incorporating it can affect those soil qualities, especially at the soil surface, causing surface sealing during rain events and subsequent soil crusting.

Soil management considerations for this fall

  1. Avoid any unnecessary tillage this fall. Conventional tillage to incorporate residue, such as deep ripping, chisel plow and even vertical tillage, etc., can have negative effects, especially after persistent drought conditions when soil structure is weakened.
  2. Managing residue – whether removing or shredding – needs to be done with care, especially on high slope areas where potential soil erosion can be significant when fields are exposed to high-intensity rain. Shredding residue after grain harvest will reduce its effectiveness in protecting the soil surface.
  3. Generally, standing residue is highly effective in trapping soil moisture and reducing water movement or surface flow over the field and also increases soil water infiltration and subsoil moisture recharge for the following season. Keeping crop residue intact on the soil surface with roots anchored in the soil can help protect soil and reduce soil erosion.
  4. Consider planting cover crops this fall. However, soil moisture conditions are critical for establishing cover crops. The use of cover crops will be a good option on fields where corn was cut for silage, especially on high slope areas. Cover crops help reduce soil erosion and increase soil water storage. Also, cover crops can help extract excess nitrogen in the soil profile after cutting corn for silage or grain harvest. This can be especially important in low-yield areas this season.
  5. If early harvest occurs, soils will be exposed to weather conditions for a longer period of time this year than normal; therefore, leaving crop residue intact will provide protection from potential late-season rain events. As mentioned in number 4, one management decision farmers should consider is the use of cover crops because if the weather holds, there will be a good window of time to establish them this year.

In summary, tillage can be very destructive to soil in terms of reduction of the residue cover in compromising soil quality.

We must maintain our soil quality to sustain yield and reduce nutrient loss during the off season. Corn residue left on the field after harvest is a critical source of soil organic matter. It provides protection for the soil against water and wind erosion, and it contributes to the improvement of soil water storage and water quality. All this will depend on the intensity of tillage this fall.

Buyers Guide

Doyle Equipment Manufacturing Co.
Doyle Equipment Manufacturing prides themselves as being “The King of the Rotary’s” with their Direct Drive Rotary Blend Systems. With numerous setup possibilities and sizes, ranging from a  more...
A.J. Sackett Sons & Company
Sackett Blend Towers feature the H.I.M, High Intensity Mixer, the next generation of blending and coating technology which supports Precision Fertilizer Blending®. Its unique design allows  more...
R&R Manufacturing Inc.
The R&R Minuteman Blend System is the original proven performer. Fast, precise blending with a compact foot print. Significantly lower horsepower requirement. Low inload height with large  more...
Junge Control Inc.
Junge Control Inc. creates state-of-the-art product blending and measuring solutions that allow you to totally maximize operating efficiency with amazing accuracy and repeatability, superior  more...
Yargus Manufacturing
The flagship blending system for the Layco product line is the fully automated Layco DW System™. The advanced technology of the Layco DW (Declining Weight) system results in a blending  more...
Yargus Manufacturing
The LAYCOTE™ Automated Coating System provides a new level of coating accuracy for a stand-alone coating system or for coating (impregnating) in an automated blending system. The unique  more...
John Deere
The DN345 Drawn Dry Spreader can carry more than 12 tons of fertilizer and 17.5 tons of lime. Designed to operate at field speeds up to 20 MPH with full loads and the G4 spreader uniformly  more...
Force Unlimited
The Pro-Force is a multi-purpose spreader with a wider apron and steeper sides. Our Pro-Force has the most aggressive 30” spinner on the market, and is capable of spreading higher rates of  more...
BBI Spreaders
MagnaSpread 2 & MagnaSpread 3 — With BBI’s patented multi-bin technology, these spreaders operate multiple hoppers guided by independent, variable-rate technology. These models are built on  more...

Comments (0) Leave a comment 

e-Mail (required)


characters left

Declining Weigh Blending System

Ranco Declining Weigh (DW) is the standard in fertilizer blending because of the speed and accuracy of the blending process. ... Read More

View all Products in this segment

View All Buyers Guides

Feedback Form
Feedback Form