This article on conservation tillage was originally published on Future Farming. Click here to read the original article.

Modern conservation tillage practices do not affect crop yield in a negative way, according to a study by North Dakota State University.

Aaron Daigh, a researcher and professor at North Dakota State University, and his team compared the effects of three common conservation tillage systems to the traditional method of a chisel plow with field cultivation:

  • Shallow vertical till.
  • Strip till using shanks.
  • Strip till using coulters.

Conservation tillage to lower on-farm costs

After four years, researchers observed that yields rarely, if ever, differed among the four tillage systems at any of the farms. The study by Daigh and his team suggests that adapting conservation tillage practices will not cause yield losses. In fact, these practices will lower on-farm costs while preserving long-term productivity.

“The results may ease farmers’ concerns about switching to conservation tillage,” says Daigh. “Perhaps more farmers will consider if conservation tillage practices are a good fit for their operations.

“I encourage farmers who are interested, but hesitant, to try these practices on one field to get more accustomed to the new system,” he says. “Then, try it out on more fields until you get your farm designed to meet your needs and goals.”

Erosion protection

As always, the whole picture should be evaluated before making on-farm decisions. “It’s not just about yield,” says Daigh. “Economics and crop residue for erosion protection should also guide farmer decisions.”

The research team continues to investigate. “We are currently looking at the incorporation of cover crops into reduced tillage practices,” says Daigh.

Variable tillage methods simultaneously

This study focused on farms with one type of tillage used per field. However, newer equipment allows for variable tillage methods used simultaneously. For example, it may be capable of vertical tillage and strip tillage at the same time. In future, Daigh and his colleagues would like to see researchers evaluate the effects of these new technologies. – Future Farming