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Slash Tillage Passes to Cut Fuel Use

Slashing tillage passes can save you up to $8.50 per acre.

“With lower commodity prices, I think we’re going to see pressure to look at input costs,” says Mark Hanna, Iowa State University Extension agricultural engineer. “Energy is one of the easiest things to manage in terms of looking at your input costs and managing those in a better fashion.”

One major consumer of energy on farms is tillage. If you are running primary and secondary tillage on 2,000 acres, you spend anywhere from $7,240 to $17,014 each year on diesel fuel. Now is the time to reevaluate your situation and to see if you can cut back on tillage without reducing yields.

A good way to start is by eliminating tillage before soybean planting, says Hanna. Iowa State University multiyear research across Iowa has shown that soybeans don’t respond much if at all to tillage.

“Some people are tilling ahead of soybeans and have production costs that aren’t getting paid back,” Hanna says.

You should also consider secondary tillage. “Do you need to do more than one secondary tillage pass? Or, do you really need that pass at all?” asks Hanna. Another thing to look at is how deep you are tilling and if you really need to go that deep.

If you are considering eliminating or reducing tillage before corn, it will take extra management.

“It makes a bigger difference on how you have your planter set up, if you have row cleaners, and how you feel about planter adjustments,” says Hanna.

Try to reduce tillage and then see what the effect is on your farm for crop yields.

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