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Wet soils, delayed planting may mean changes in tillage, herbicide application

Cold, wet weather and soils have delayed corn planting in most Midwest states. Purdue Extension agronomist Tony Vyn recommends farmers reconsider tillage plans and preemerge herbicide applications.

A drive through south-central Minnesota and northeast Iowa on Tuesday found farmers hitting the fields with tillage equipment. We spotted multiple tractors with tracks in several fields as the race was on to cover as many acres as possible. After all, less that 5% of Minnesota’s corn crop was planted. A year ago, 85% of the crop was in the ground.

The late fieldwork and planting will mean a change in tillage and production plans for some farmers. Purdue Extension agronomist Tony Vyn issued recommendations for handling some of the changes. Here are the highlights:

  • Exercise caution, control weeds, and enhance seedbed quality where possible. The worst possible combination would be doing secondary tillage when the soil is wet, and having that followed by hot and dry conditions during early development of corn seedlings.
  • Limit soil damage and the creation of any root-restricting soil layers during either the tillage or the corn-planting operations. Potential corn yields in 2011 can be compromised more by poor soil structure following poor tillage choices from now on than they have been by the planting delays thus far.
  • Herbicide sprayers should still precede tillage and planting in fields that will not receive full tillage this spring.
  • No-till corn planting remains a viable option. The probability of successful yields with no-till does not decline with later planting dates; if anything, the yield potential of no-till corn increases, compared with corn yields likely to be achieved after more intensive tillage operations.
  • Vertical tillage systems may speed surface soil drying. Typically, shallow and high-speed vertical tillage operations may help to speed up the rate of surface soil drying when there is nonuniform residue cover or rain-matted residue cover.
  • Spring strip-tillage operations should be shallow. If farmers can wait until soil conditions are fit down to a 4- or 5-inch depth and have the equipment options to do shallow strip-till in spring, the practice can produce corn yield advantages.

Read the complete list at http://extension.entm.purdue.edu/pestcrop/2011/issue4/index.html#tillage

 

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