This week’s Word focuses on tillage, tillage, and (no more!) tillage. Peter Johnson, resident agronomist for RealAgriculture and host of this weekly podcast, discusses the hidden costs of the practice, strip tillage in edibles and more. But the discussion hits other topics as well, as Johnson answers questions around oats and spring cereal performance trials.

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  • Some awesome comments and questions. Send more feedback!
  • Spring cereal performance trials are available for 2015.
  • We’ve lost genetic resistance to crown rust in oats, and though newer varieties have tolerance they are not resistant. Some recommendations on locations where fungicide should be applied.
  • Tillage – Why do it? Compaction on tilled soil is higher than on unworked land. Simple economic analysis don’t take into account the impact of tillage erosion. In research trials where scientists took top soil from hollows and moved it up, they automatically improved yields by 30bu/ac. Plus, no-till systems with rotations see a 30-40lb nitrogen credit over the long term. But Johnson, why does tillage work in the garden then?
  • Strip tillage – Why do soybean yields increase with tillage? Are 20? rows too expensive? Why do I have ‘chunky’ strips? Should I strip-till edibles?
  • There will be no Word between Christmas and New Year’s. Take the time to focus on the holidays and “go visit someone who you haven’t seen in the last twenty years!”


One thought on “Wheat Pete’s Word, Dec 17: Unearthing the Hidden Costs of Tillage

  1. I think you anti-tillage guys need to get out more. Johnson said something that rang true though. A lot of our problems are caused by the “Nut behind the wheel” I wouldn’t disagree with that.

    Thing is… There is no single right answer and at the end of the day the bills have to get paid. You can not save the environment if you can not pay the bills.

    The guys doing tillage are not stupid – they know the costs and benefits. That is why they do it. For every guy you can find that says vertical tillage or tillage does not pay I will find you 10 who will say it does so don’t wave that flag.
    The vast majority of farmers that do tillage are also conservationists and no tillers as well. They use no till or zero till as a tool to increase profits and improve soil health.
    They know when tillage pays and when it does not.

    We need to stop bashing and pitting one method or practice against the other and start thinking about regeneration instead of being satisfied with conserving or sustaining what we have.

    If we pool the knowledge and resources that we have available to us today and pour our energy and knowledge into soil regeneration we will not only improve the environment and leave the soil and water in better health for the next generation but we will be more profitable as well.

    Happy new year everyone!
    Best regards

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