Fall tillage best practices

Tillage is conducted primarily to bury residue and speed up decomposition. 

Burying residue is vital in corn-after-corn rotations, explain DuPont Pioneer agronomists. Soils will warm and dry more quickly next spring if residue is properly incorporated. This also reduces the amount of inoculum present that may lead to certain diseases next summer. Sizing or cutting up residue is important as small pieces of residue break down quicker than larger ones. Here's a rundown of the many tillage tools available on the market:

  • Chisel Plow: This is a very effective tool for removing compaction and burying residue.
  • Chopping Corn Head: This requires more horsepower but gives the ability to cut up and better manage residue with the combine.
  • Combination Tools: There are several on the market including the Kuhn Krause Dominator, Case IH Ecolo-Tiger 870, and John Deere 2700 and 714. These are the most popular fall tillage tools because they size and bury residue while eliminating compaction. They can, however, cause deep compaction in wet soil where the ripper points run. In the event of a wet fall, when it's possible to only bury residue, a disk is the preferred choice. Then the following spring, the field cultivator will remove the shallow layer of compaction the disk created.
  • Disk: Increasing the weight per blade will improve a disk's ability to size and bury residue. Disks with 9-inch spacing or wider and medium concavity blades are preferred for fall corn residue incorporation. Make sure disks are level both side to side and fore to aft and run no faster than 5 or 6 miles per hour to ensure uniform soil distribution. 
  • Shredder: This requires another pass through the field, but provides a benefit similar to the chopping corn head.
  • Vertical Tillage Tools: Great Plains Turbo-Till is popular among no-till and reduced-till growers. Avoid use in wet soil conditions as increased soil compaction will occur.