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Three Tillage Temptations You Should Resist

April 26, 2013
Muddy Field PurdueExtension WEB
While it's tempting to start tilling, farmers should be sure not to till too early, too wet or too often, Purdue Extension says.  

Shared by Jennifer Stewart, Purdue Extension.

A Purdue Extension agronomist is urging corn farmers not to let planting anxiety drive them to fall for three common tillage temptations: too early, too wet, and too often.

Heavy rainfall and cool temperatures have delayed planting and tillage operations in Indiana and Ohio. As of April 22, less than 1 percent of the corn crop had been planted in both states, and there had been only a few days suitable for fieldwork.

(See related: Spring Weather Challenges Include Flooding, Dust Storms and Snow)

Farmers often become too eager during weather delays, which can lead to risky or unnecessary field operations, Tony Vyn said.

"A couple of weeks ago, we had a lot of growers out doing tillage well before they intended to plant," he said. "The only time it's appropriate to till early is if you plan to plant into a stale seedbed once the weather allows for planting."

Instead, Vyn said corn growers should plan to postpone spring tillage until that field is within 24 hours of the intended planting time - especially in fine soils where the risk of erosion, gullies and soil crusting is highest.

Reasonably level fields with sandy and loam soils often are the best candidates for planting into a stale seedbed because soil crusting with intense rain is less likely. However, all soils are most susceptible to erosion losses when intense rain comes right after tillage and before drying cycles have had the opportunity to help restore soil aggregate stability.

Beyond proper timing of tillage operations, Vyn said producers should avoid working ground when it's too wet.

"We're having a wet spring, we're expecting more rain, and farmers have a lot of acreage to plant, so the temptation is there to till when it's too wet," he said. "The problem is that tilling wet soils can cause compaction. You can lose a lot more yield with compaction than with delayed planting.

"Just because the tractor doesn't get stuck doesn't mean you should be out there."

Even if the soil surface is dry, Vyn said corn growers need to do more to determine if fields are ready for tillage.

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RELATED TOPICS: Corn, Weather, Soybeans, Tractors, Tillage



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