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No-till decision factors
"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.
- Efficient drainage system in poorly drained areas to remove excess water
- Include filter strips and grass water ways to reduce surface erosion
- Ground water management to utilize water more efficiently under drought conditions.
- Proper residue management attachments (i.e., residue cleaners set for removing residue from the row with minimum soil disturbance) to increase soil surface temperature
- Proper adjustment for planters for proper down pressure and seed depth
- Combine adjustment for uniform residue distribution
- Proper fertilizer application equipment to minimize soil disturbance.
- Corn following soybean to help build soil biodiversity
- Continuous corn (C-C)—if C-C is used residue cleaner should be set to manage corn residue with minimum soil disturbance
- 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.
Proper fertilizer program
- Soil testing—soil testing is essential regardless of the tillage system to insure adequate availability of nutrients
- Timing of application is critical to avoid nutrient loss, especially nitrogen
- Starter fertilizer can help provide initial boost for plant growth and development.
- Days for maturity—this is important especially, if planting delayed due to soil moisture conditions
- Climate and soil conditions are different in different regions in the state. Therefore, selecting proper hybrid for NT should take in consideration such conditions.
Integrated crop management program
- Pest and disease control—this is important for NT in cold, poorly drained soils
- Weed control—timing of controlling weeds is important by applying chemicals to minimize potential yield loss.
- Potential input cost for selected tillage system needs to be factored in determining net return
- Potential yield of site—selection of any tillage should take in account the soil site potential productivity
- 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.