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(Posted Wed. Oct 31st, 2012)
Oct. 31: Revenge tillage may sound strange, overtly emotion or possibly even satisfying depending on one’s circumstance, but agronomists urge farmers to take a calculated look at the long-term situation on their own farm before hitting the fields.
In a recent article published by Purdue Agriculture News, Purdue Extension Agronomist Tony Vyn lays out guidelines that can help farmers determine if tillage would actually benefit their land or if the urge to do so would only prove emotionally satisfying in the short-term.
"I don't want farmers to overestimate the need for fall tillage just because of the 2012 drought and poor crops," he said. "It's important to adopt a tillage system that leaves topsoil uniformly in place to build up a whole field's resiliency in root-zone water retention over time."
The drought actually decreased two major justifications for tillage. Deep cracking and loosening of soil due to the drought have already rearranged the soil aggregates thus improving the foundation for seed placement and allowing for better root growth. In addition, farmers who generally till because of heavy harvest crop residue, if affected by the drought, should not face such issues this year.
Vyn noted that unnecessary tillage can increase the risk of soil loss due to erosion thereby reducing future yields. Particularly in sloped areas, farmers should consider the amount of topsoil that could be lost should they till thus burying the residue that could have provided protection against runoff.
Farmers may benefit from limited fall tillage in fields with a history of compaction or high clay content. Most often, tillage best serves fields used for a corn-on-corn rotation or with soils that drain poorly.
Time remains to consider the need for tillage more closely and, should fall rains prove heavy, waiting to till may prove advisable even for those who will do so eventually.
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