The Effect of Tillage Practice on Corn and Soybean Yield Potential

TRIAL OBJECTIVE

  • Reduced tillage has many advantages in crop production systems. Crop residue on the soil surface can reduce erosion and conserve soil moisture. Additionally, minimizing soil disturbance contributes to better soil health. However, questions arise concerning how tillage practices could affect crop yield potential.

  • The objectives of this study were to demonstrate differences between tillage practices and to evaluate the effect of reduced fertilizer rates under strip tillage.

 

RESEARCH SITE DETAILS

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  • The study design was a randomized complete block with either 1 replication (Benson, MN) or 2 replications (Mapleton, MN) with five treatments (Table 1) over 3 years: 2019, 2020, and 2021.

  • Rainfed system under a corn-soybean rotation.

  • Strip-till treatments were established using a KUHN Krause Gladiator® 1205M strip-till machine with a Montag® Gen II fertilizer system.

  • Fertilizer was surface-applied in the fall to the Conventional and No-till treatments and incorporated or left on the surface, respectively.  

  • The Strip-till treatment was completed in the fall and planted directly in the spring (Figure 1). 

  • All corn plots received a total nitrogen application of 160 lb/acre.

  • Potassium and phosphorus fertilizer application rates were based on removal from the previous crop.

  • Weeds were controlled uniformly across the study area. 

  • Plots were combine-harvested with grain moisture content, test weight, and total weight collected.

  • Statistical analysis for Fisher’s LSD was performed.

Table 1. Experiment treatments.

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Table 2.  Monthly and annual precipitation data for Mapleton, MN and Benson, MN.

image Source: Department of Natural Resources (Minnesota).
image Figure 1. KUHN Krause Gladiator® strip-till machine with a Montag® Gen II fertilizer system (left) and tractor view of strip-till operation (right).

UNDERSTANDING THE RESULTS

Mapleton, MN

Corn and soybean yield, three-year average.

  • The highest three-year average corn yields were obtained under strip-till followed by no-till regardless of fertilization (Figure 2). However, the yield difference was not statistically significant.

  • For corn, conventional tillage tended to yield less than no-till and strip-till (Figure 2).

  • There was no difference in average soybean yield between treatments at this site, even with different fertilization management (Figure 3).

 
 
image Figure 2. Effect of tillage and fertilization on corn yield at Mapleton, MN, three-year average yield for 2019, 2020, and 2021.
image Figure 3. Effect of tillage and fertilization on soybean yield at Mapleton, MN, three-year average yield for 2019, 2020, and 2021.

Benson, MN

Corn and soybean yield, three-year average.

  • Although not significant, strip-till plots with the 100% fertilization rate had the highest three-year average corn yield, followed by the rest of Strip-till and No-till treatments (Figure 4). 

  • Conventional tillage yielded at least 10 bushels per acre less on average than the rest of treatments (Figure 4).  

  • Like in Mapleton, there was no difference in average soybean yield between treatments at this site, even with different fertilization management (Figure 5).

     

image Figure 4. Effect of tillage and fertilization on corn yield at Benson, MN, three-year average yield for 2019, 2020, and 2021.
image Figure 5. Effect of tillage and fertilization on soybean yield at Benson, MN, three-year average yield for 2019, 2020, and 2021.

KEY LEARNINGS

  • Strip-till and no-till tillage practices increased corn yield compared to conventional tillage at both locations. However, the differences were not statistically significant for the three-year averages.

  • For soybean, no clear tillage or fertilization effect was observed at both locations.

  • In general, reduced potassium and phosphorus fertilization under strip-till did not affect corn and soybean yield in these trials. 

  • Farmers should work with their local sales team member to help identify the best management practice for their production systems.

 

 

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