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Angie Peltier


Angie Peltier
Former Extension Educator, Commercial Agriculture



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Hill and Furrow

Current topics about crop production in Western Illinois, including field crops research at the NWIARDC in Monmouth.
Figure. Corn plants grown under different tillage systems in 2012: left = chisel plow; right = no-tillage.
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Tillage, plant stress, and lodging


The Illinois Department of Agriculture Illinois Soil Conservation Transect Survey Summary Report was released a year ago this month. Illinois Soil and Water Conservation District and USDA National Resources Conservation Service personnel randomly surveyed fields for plant residue in each township in each county last spring throughout the state of Illinois. They then determined which tillage system was used within each field, sampling a total of more than 49,000 data points to determine the percentage of total Illinois farmland that practices each of the four main tillage systems: conventional, reduced, mulch and no-tillage. They defined each tillage system in terms of how much of the debris from the previous crop remained on the soil surface: no-till = leaves the soil surface undisturbed; mulch = at least 30% remaining; conventional: less than 15% remaining and; reduced till = 16 to 29% remaining. Over all, a majority of farmers practiced some form of conservation tillage in 2011, 54.5% in corn and 86.3% in soybean (Table).

Table 1. Illinois Department of Agriculture state-wide Soil Conservation Transect Survey results

Crop

Year

Percent of points surveyed with indicated tillage systems

Conventional

Reduced

Mulch

No-till

Unknown

Corn

2011

45.5

24.8

18.9

10.8

0

2001

49.0

23.5

10.5

17.0

0

1994

14.6

14.6

6.9

18.8

0.1

Soybean

2011

13.7

19.9

25.2

41.2

0

2001

14.2

18.9

24.8

42.1

0

1994

32.0

23.8

15.5

28.6

0.1

There is a positive trend toward more aggressive soil conservation practices over some of the earlier years of the transect survey. Hopefully this trend continued into 2012! Although yield data from the NWIARDC has not been downloaded into the computer for data analysis, there is a lot of anecdotal data suggesting that corn and soybean planted onto chisel-plowed soil was under significantly more stress than corn and soybean planted onto no-till soil in 2012.

The NWIARDC has a long-term rotation and tillage study that began in 1996. There are eight different rotations within this study that include combinations of corn, soybean and/or wheat. Within each rotation, plots are split in half to accommodate two tillage treatments (chisel-plow and no-till).

In corn plots this year, plants grown on tilled soil (chisel-plowed) died down much earlier than plants grown on no-till soil (Figure). Plants in chisel-plowed plots appeared to both lodge more often above the ear shank and not grow as tall as plants in no-till plots. Only time (and data analysis) will tell whether the visible differences between plants in chisel-plowed and no-till plots will translate into yield differences.

I rated soybean plots in this same study for lodging  using the following numerical scale: 1 = almost all plants erect; 2 = either all plants leaning slightly, or a few plants down; 3 = either all plants leaning moderately (45 degrees), or 25 to 50% down; 4 = either all plants leaning considerably, or 50 to 80% down; and 5 = all plants down. Plants in the no-till soybean plots had an average lodging score of 1.8 and plants in the chisel-plowed soybean plots had an average lodging score of 3.9 (Figure). Although many of the severely lodged plants in the chisel-plowed plots are likely to spring back up as leaves drop, lodging increases the chances of leaving some yield on the ground.



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