"Since we are lacking in moisture, it was important to try to conserve as much moisture as we could this spring," ISA Conservation Agronomist Ryan Johnson says. "One of the ways to do this could have been no-tilling since, as a rule of thumb, every pass of tillage takes away about an inch of moisture from the ground." (Photo credit: Ryan Johnson/Iowa Soybean Association)
No-till planting presenting benefits in dry year
June 2, 2021 | Ryan Johnson
What are the benefits of no-till planting in a dry year like 2021? It is pretty easy to look at no-till and figure out you can have cost savings from less time, fuel, and equipment while planting directly into existing corn stalks or bean stubble.
As I drove around the countryside this spring and dug behind some planters, I have seen other benefits to adopting no-till such as saving moisture, being able to get the seed planted into moisture, and protecting the plant from wind erosion once it is up.
Since we are lacking in moisture, it was important to try to conserve as much moisture as we could this spring. One of the ways to do this could have been no-tilling. As a rule of thumb, every pass of tillage takes away about an inch of moisture from the ground.
As I dug behind a few planters this year, the no-till was easier to find moisture at normal planting depths. I heard a few farmers set their planters a notch deeper trying to guarantee moisture for the seed to germinate, even in no-till fields. The fields where they tilled for the second or third time really dried out the top soil moisture. Farmers had to sink the planter in deep, or if they didn’t, they were waiting for a rain to get the seed germinated and get the plant out of the ground since it was sitting in dry dirt. An added benefit to the no-till this year was helping to get the seed placed in moisture.
The other benefit I have noticed this spring with no-till was the standing residue was able to protect the emerged plant from wind erosion. As the wind blew in northwest Iowa, I could visually see the wind erosion taking place as dust was blowing off some heavily tilled soils. In drier climates like we are experiencing, wind erosion can range from 2.1 to 7.9 tons per acre annually (Hansen et al., 2012). The residue in a no-till field not only held the soil in place, but also protected the emerged plant from being hit by the windblown soil particles.
In 2021, farmers saved time, fuel and machinery cost by no-tilling. They also saved valuable inches of moisture, and making it easier to get the seed into moisture while planting. You also do not need to worry as much about wind erosion damaging plants, which is more likely on a dry year like this. So, before you go and rip or disk up your stalks this fall, just remember your bottom line could be further ahead by leaving the residue and managing it with no-till.