COLUMBUS, Ohio -- No-till farmers looking to plant corn after corn this growing season have the option of practicing strip tillage to maintain soil conservation benefits while reducing production issues associated with no-till monoculture crop systems.
Randall Reeder, an Ohio State University Extension agricultural engineer who specializes in conservation tillage practices, said that the same crops or like crops planted in the same field year after year creates a host of issues -- from pest buildup to root growth inhibition to yield reduction. Continuous corn, under no-till production systems, can suffer anywhere from a 5 percent to 15 percent yield reduction compared with no-till corn following soybeans.
"The best production practice is to rotate your crops. But some no-till farmers are going to want to grow corn after corn, and they are going to see the production advantages of some kind of tillage," said Reeder. "The challenge is how do we encourage them to do the least amount of tillage as necessary to maintain soil benefits while not losing anything on the production end?"
One answer is to strip till. Strip tillage is considered a no-till conservation practice whereby planting and tillage operations are limited to strips and the area between the rows is left untilled with crop residue. Conservation tillage practices offer a variety of benefits, including reduction in labor, reduction in machinery wear, increased organic matter, reduced soil erosion, improved soil quality, improved air quality by storing carbon, increased wildlife habitats and a better method of maintaining moisture.
"The advantage of strip tillage is that it prepares an ideal surface condition for corn planting, but still leaves residue between the strips like in no-till," said Reeder.
No-till farmers considering strip tillage as an option may want to keep some of the following suggestions in mind:
Ohio leads the Midwest in no-till adoption. Currently over 20 percent of the state's cornfields are in no-till, and that includes strip tillage. According to research conducted at Ohio State and Purdue universities, strip tillage produces comparable yields as fall chisel plowing in continuous corn production.
Tony Vyn, a Purdue University Extension agronomist, offers additional considerations when no-tilling continuous corn:
"The bottom line is if farmers feel they need to till this spring, we encourage them to use the least amount of tillage that will still provide good yields," said Reeder.
SOURCE: Ohio State University news relese.