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Should I Use Fall Tillage On This Piece of Ground

Oct 03, 2013

 Question: I am taking over some very sloping and hilly ground for next year and can’t make up my mind if I want to rip it this fall for fear of erosion. The previous farmer chopped corn on it for silage consecutively for about 10 years. I have ran the chisel plow a couple passes, just to see what kind of condition the soil is in, and it is really dry. I am not getting very good shatter at all. There are standing stalks on the ground right now but very little trash in-between rows, due to the chopper taking the stalks and all. My question is should I rip the ground this fall, then run through it with a field cultivator in the spring and risk soil erosion over the winter? Or, do I wait until spring and rip it and cultivate it right before I plant? I am in north-central Indiana.

 Answer: It’s difficult to give you a straight-out answer, without seeing your ground, so here are a few considerations for you to evaluate. First, are your soils able to handle spring ripping or chiseling?  Where I’m based we can do primary tillage in the spring, because our soils contain a lot of sand.  I don’t know if you’re far enough north in Indiana that your fields can handle the spring tillage, but if they can I’d wait until then.  Another consideration is it sounds like you have some significant soil-health problems and maybe a lot of compaction, too.  I’m concerned you won’t get good water infiltration in your soils during the fall and winter, and you could have a lot of erosion problems.  That would be another reason to do spring, primary tillage. However, on heavy ground I wouldn’t do primary tillage in the spring, because the soil will be too wet and primary tillage will result in you bringing up a lot of clumpy soil, which is going to be a problem when you get ready to plant.  One other thing I’d recommend, if you want to do something this fall, you might consider renting an inline ripper and running it 12-14" deep, and that will leave almost all your residue on the surface.  Running the inline ripper this fall and then coming back in the spring with primary tillage would probably help you address the deep compaction you’re seeing. 

Tillage: To Do or Not To Do Farm Journal’s Field Agronomist Ken Ferrie discusses the proper uses of tillage in Episode 10 of Corn College TV Season 3.  Just because you have chosen tillage in the past does not mean that it is needed every season. The first step is to identify why you are doing it. Start with asking yourself what you’re trying to accomplish and find a procedure that will accomplish that--which may or may not lead to tillage.

How Important Is Tillage When It Comes to Bushels in the Bin? Fixing the seed bed starts with primary tillage tools.

Get the Straight Talk on Tillage As the term vertical tillage becomes more mainstream, clarifying what makes a practice fit this system is key.





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