No-till decision factors

  • 01

    "Corn production is more challenging and requires additional management to have a successful no-till system," says Iowa State University agronomist Mahdi Al-Kaisi. Here are some factors to consider when pondering the shift to no-till, according to Al-Kaisi.

  • 02

    Drainage system

    1. Efficient drainage system in poorly drained areas to remove excess water
    2. Include filter strips and grass water ways to reduce surface erosion
    3. Ground water management to utilize water more efficiently under drought conditions.
  • 03


    1. Proper residue management attachments (i.e., residue cleaners set for removing residue from the row with minimum soil disturbance) to increase soil surface temperature
    2. Proper adjustment for planters for proper down pressure and seed depth
    3. Combine adjustment for uniform residue distribution
    4. Proper fertilizer application equipment to minimize soil disturbance.
  • 04

    Crop rotation

    1. Corn following soybean to help build soil biodiversity
    2. Continuous corn (C-C)—if C-C is used residue cleaner should be set to manage corn residue with minimum soil disturbance
    3. Other extended crop rotations—if forage crop used with NT in the rotation, consideration for minimizing soil disturbance needs to be included when forage is terminated.
  • 05

    Proper fertilizer program

    1. Soil testing—soil testing is essential regardless of the tillage system to insure adequate availability of nutrients
    2. Timing of application is critical to avoid nutrient loss, especially nitrogen
    3. Starter fertilizer can help provide initial boost for plant growth and development.
  • 06

    Hybrid selection

    1. Days for maturity—this is important especially, if planting delayed due to soil moisture conditions
    2. Climate and soil conditions are different in different regions in the state.  Therefore, selecting proper hybrid for NT should take in consideration such conditions.
  • 07

    Integrated crop management program

    1. Pest and disease control—this is important for NT in cold, poorly drained soils
    2. Weed control—timing of controlling weeds is important by applying chemicals to minimize potential yield loss.
  • 08

    Input cost

    1. Potential input cost for selected tillage system needs to be factored in determining net return
    2. Potential yield of site—selection of any tillage should take in account the soil site potential productivity
    3. Compliance with conservation plan—this is important for those who have a conservation plan contract with a conservation agency.

Consider these 7 factors when weighing the no-till switch on your farm.

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