All producers seek the perfect growing environment. The ideal seed bed is level, has deep soil moisture and is adequately firm, with small surface clods or a light mulch of residue to prevent soil erosion.
Even during an ideal growing season, creating the perfect seed bed takes time and proper preparation. That’s where fall tillage comes in. Done right, it can help lay the foundation for next season’s production by:
* Sizing crop residue to for faster breakdown and make planting easier
* Providing a warmer, drier seed bed in the spring
* Reducing soil compaction compared with tillage in spring, when soil tends to be wetter
* Incorporating fertilizer and manure to boost nitrogen values
Combination primary tillage tools can manage crop residue and soil tillage and provide a level seed bed in a single pass.
Maximizing yield potential starts right behind the combine. It’s the reason why many top producers set their sights on achieving level output behind their fall tillage pass. If successful, reduced spring tillage means planting can begin sooner. The output is more level and uniform, and tougher residues associated with growing Bt hybrids are sized and mixed for more rapid nutrient cycling.
You can help improve yields by reducing clod and valley sizes out the back of a fall tillage pass. For example, research shows reducing clod and valley sizes — 6 inches or fewer in prairie soils, 4.5 inches or fewer in forest soils — dramatically reduces the risk of emergence problems in spring. (See figure below.)
Based on more than five years of extensive field research, this study found up to 10 percent of seeds failed to emerge or develop a full ear at harvest because of cloddy, uneven output.
Conducted in five states at seven locations, the research used a randomized complete block design and included more than 2 million hand-collected data points. Advanced data-mining techniques revealed that by better managing residue, soil fracture and, most important, the size of holes and clods left behind, yield potential could be significantly improved.
This research shows as many as 3,000 plants per acre, or up to 10 percent of the net effective stand, could be lost because of poor seed bed conditions. Most of those lost plants were recovered simply by focusing on delivering level output, both clod and valley-free, following primary tillage.
To prepare your perfect seed bed, determine the most appropriate tillage tools based on your field conditions and operational goals:
Disk harrows: A good choice for cutting and incorporating residue, as well as breaking up clods. This tool ensures soil is mixed thoroughly and chemicals are incorporated more effectively.
Disk rippers: Used to fracture root limiting compaction, size and mix heavy residue and level soil.
In-line rippers: Helps eliminate yield-limiting factors — such as compaction and cold, wet seed beds — while protecting Highly Erodible Land (HEL). It fractures compacted soil and leaves the surface residue virtually undistributed, conserving moisture and ensuring roots have the necessary pore space to grow and feed.
Vertical tillage: A fast and efficient way to cover many acres, manage crop residue and level the soil in either the spring or fall. Patented blades move soil and residue up, down and laterally to slice, size, mix and level fields.
Fall can be an unpredictable season. Turn to Case IH to find the best tillage options for your varying soil types and field conditions. Then, when your crop is out, you can focus on maximizing next year’s yields.