Best Tillage Options for Your Operation
20 July 2018
Every farm is different. Each farmer faces his or her own fair share of challenges, from the precise lay of the land to the climate and weather conditions that play such an important role in crop growth. And ultimately, the range of challenges you face on any given day means that you may not benefit from the same tillage techniques as your peers. Instead, it’s important to tailor your tillage methods to the exact needs of your land.
What Should You Consider?
Before delving into the range of tillage methods at your disposal, it’s important to know which factors will affect your choice of tillage methods. These factors will undoubtedly vary between farms, but there are at least a few that are worth examining on a broad level.
It goes without saying that your crops play a key role in determining which tillage methods are best suited for your operation. Corn crops, for example, are known for leaving a great deal of residue that breaks down slowly, whereas soybeans feature residue that break down with ease.
Arguably just as important as the crops you grow, your operation’s soil characteristics will also affect your tillage decisions. Traits to look for include soil fertility, soil texture, erosion potential, internal drainage and surface compaction.
In addition to the crops you’re growing and the characteristics of local soil, there are a range of other variables worth looking into when you’re developing a sensible tillage approach. These can include nutrient management, herbicides, the planting equipment you use and even the economic risk that may come along with your tillage method of choice.
Choosing Your Method
After you’ve taken stock of your farming situation, you’ll be well-equipped to choose a tillage method. But there are several options at your disposal, and it’s important to choose an approach that meets your demands.
The definition of conventional tillage evolves as farming trends change, but conventional tillage traditionally involves the burying of residue and the turning of the soil through widely available equipment, like plows and discs. While this type of tillage was once prominent, it’s faded in popularity, as it often leads to unwanted soil erosion and fairly high fuel costs. It does offer certain benefits, however, by controlling weeds and helping to reduce compaction.
Conservation tillage is an umbrella term that includes a range of tillage methods designed to conserve soil by leaving crop residue on the field. Strip tillage, where farmers only till narrow rows of land while leaving the remaining residue untouched, is one popular conservation tillage approach. Another is vertical tillage, where the land is tilled lightly, mixing up some of the residue while leaving a great deal on the soil’s surface.
True to its name, no-till farming is a crop approach that involves very little to no tillage, leaving plenty of residue to protect the soil. On one hand, no-till farming can lead to significant savings by reducing the need to spend time and money on tilling. But on the other, the lack of tillage may require an innovative pest control plan.
Weigh Your Options
Just like most farming decisions, your tilling techniques ultimately depend upon what you believe you can accomplish with your resources. Don’t hesitate to test a range of tilling methods and equipment in order to find the perfect solution, and always bear in mind that what works best for one farmer could be worlds away from what’s best for you.
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