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These pictures are of a no till field split with a tilled field. It is heavy clay. The right side has been no till for about 13 years with one year after a few years getting a light cultivator pass in spring to dry it up. We finally have a couple dry years under our belts now and it doesnt appear that the no till will be better. Last year i do not think it was better either. I cant really see any benefit to no till now other than possibly saving a few bucks on tillage. When it was wet no till fell on its face and now when its dry its only on par. If i see a yeild drag this year i may just get off the notill band wagon. The year prior was canola with only a heavy harrow pass on both sides so essentially seeded into the same conditions. Any thoughts on why the difference? Or why im not seeing the benefit of no till?
 

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without starting the no-till war, I think its a what type of dirt and how you like to farm. I'm the same way, one day its screw it I'm selling the disk and cultivator, the next its drag them back out because I'm tired of my crop not being out of the ground right away.. I would says as long as its not drying the ground out its a horse a piece. Save fuel and time, or wait for the crop to grow past the stubble
 

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Was there compaction or are there subsoil issues that existed prior to starting no-till?

I’m in different country/soil types/topography; but I’ve seen it where someone has switched some of their country to no-till/min til without addressing the problems caused by the earlier tillage practices e.g. compaction OR underlying soil issues (acidity/salinity/water-logging) at depth and the conventional seems to perform better.
 

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There seems to be a lot of straw toxicity going on this year, especially with the canola but even soybeans and cereals are an issue. I think the recent dry years has slowed the rate of decomposition of this crop material.

My best wheat this spring was what I harrowed more for avadex and best canola is on ground protilled twice because of heavy corn residue. I should have protilled ahead of my corn instead of going in direct. I think a guy can get carried away but some tillage is needed to deal with big straw crops IMO. I try to do mine late fall or right ahead of drill to conserve moisture.

We tried zero-till in the 90's and it didn't work for us then, even now with better choppers and fancy drills I don't think it is the path to the biggest crops. Something in the middle seems to be the best....here.:wink:

I also wonder about chemical residue and if tillage can help disperse that???

Adsinaus our frost in winter generally deals with our compaction for us. Doubt that is an issue, or the main one.
 

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Discussion Starter #6
Was there compaction or are there subsoil issues that existed prior to starting no-till?

I’m in different country/soil types/topography; but I’ve seen it where someone has switched some of their country to no-till/min til without addressing the problems caused by the earlier tillage practices e.g. compaction OR underlying soil issues (acidity/salinity/water-logging) at depth and the conventional seems to perform better.
There was nothing obvious that im aware of. That being said if there was compaction issues i was under the impression that switching to no till would eventually take care of itself? The ground is heavy and it is hard now with it being so dry so i am starting to think that it just needs some help to loosen up with a bit of tillage. Ive used a lemken on other fields before seeding and the crops sure seemed to like that...
 

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while I agree compaction isn't a big issue its one I worry we maybe ignore it too much too. there is a big arc around all of our gates where nothing is growing, wonder to what degree it radiates further out.....


same goes for where we seem to have water pooling and causing root rots. I do know someone that was doing a bit of ripping in the fall and said that anytime you went through a those spots the tractor would lug right down, that they were encountering a lot more resistance there, could be some sub surface compaction causing reduced infiltration.


We have been zero / min till for almost 20 years now but I would be very curious to see what effect ripping would have on a few acres.... have started doing fall tillage on one field a year to try and clean up some ruts and so forth. sure see the wild oats come back with a vengeance, and poor emergence in these dry springs. not a practice I would consider on any sort of large acreage for sure!
 

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We also farm extremely heavy unforgiving clay, nearly always too wet. Switched to no till during the extreme wet springs, since any tillage we tried to do just caused so much compaction it was a losing battle. There is a very noticeable drag on getting the crop above the stubble and looking even, but not sure it translates into anything by fall. In the extreme wet or dry years it is a definite benefit, the just right years probably a detriment.
 

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All farming practices are regional. Just because it gets lots of international press, don't think it is the only way for your area. Drive around and see what the best farmers are doing and how it works. If you are the only one in your area doing no till and have no one to help blaze a method that makes you a pioneer. Its always easy to tell the pioneers because their a$$ is full of arrows.
 

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Was the canola straight cut last year by any chance?
Our wheat on straight cut canola stubble is pretty brutally uneven this year. We've been seeding straight into some heavy trash with good results until this year. My feeling is the straight cut canola straw just wasn't half rotted in the swath like usual. Probably a light tillage/heavy harrow pass in the spring would have made a big difference.
 

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Ok pictures didnt load so here they are...

All that matters is the final Yield and what it cost to get it. If you really want to know if No-till is the go for you then the do some harvest tests using a weigh cart and harvest same length transects along the joining strip so the soil etc is as close as possible to being the same.
All the snake oil salesmen and sellers of the next wonder product always show pics of root systems and growing crop but never publish final yields!!!!
As for No-till being worth it, 95% of the West Australian crop is established using No or Zero till. I dont think 95% of us are completely brainless.
 

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All that matters is the final Yield and what it cost to get it. If you really want to know if No-till is the go for you then the do some harvest tests using a weigh cart and harvest same length transects along the joining strip so the soil etc is as close as possible to being the same.
All the snake oil salesmen and sellers of the next wonder product always show pics of root systems and growing crop but never publish final yields!!!!
As for No-till being worth it, 95% of the West Australian crop is established using No or Zero till. I dont think 95% of us are completely brainless.
I agree because you won’t see a yield difference of 10bu an acre with your naked eye.
We did wheat trails with fall fertility vs spring and there was an increase in yield by 12bu an acre where spring applied and you couldn’t tell the difference by looking at it
 

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As for No-till being worth it, 95% of the West Australian crop is established using No or Zero till. I dont think 95% of us are completely brainless.
Pretty sure nobody in Australia is trying to melt snowbanks, dry up fields and get a crop started in 30 days under a heavy residue load with risk of frost like Manitoba. If I was in Australia I would likely be zero-tilling too, nobody is calling anyone brainless. :wink:
 

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What are you seeding with? In my opinion there is a lot of supposed no-till that I think isn't true no-till because the seeding equipment causes too much disturbance even though it leaves a lot of residue behind.


Infiltration is going to be the easiest way to measure a benefit from no-till. Pound a 6" pipe a couple inches into the ground and gently pour water into it and time how long it takes to infiltrate. A 500 mL bottle of water is equal to just over 1"of rain. Try this on the no-till, tilled and an area such as a fenceline.
 

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There seems to be a lot of straw toxicity going on this year, especially with the canola but even soybeans and cereals are an issue. I think the recent dry years has slowed the rate of decomposition of this crop material.

My best wheat this spring was what I harrowed more for avadex and best canola is on ground protilled twice because of heavy corn residue. I should have protilled ahead of my corn instead of going in direct. I think a guy can get carried away but some tillage is needed to deal with big straw crops IMO. I try to do mine late fall or right ahead of drill to conserve moisture.

We tried zero-till in the 90's and it didn't work for us then, even now with better choppers and fancy drills I don't think it is the path to the biggest crops. Something in the middle seems to be the best....here.:wink:

I also wonder about chemical residue and if tillage can help disperse that???

Adsinaus our frost in winter generally deals with our compaction for us. Doubt that is an issue, or the main one.
I’ve got a section of barley that is proof that tillage helps with Chemical Residue. Last year had clear field canola on a section and sprayed with Salute. One quarter of the section was a quarter that I just bought and it was hay about 5 years ago previous owners broke the hay land with a big Wishek disk and then just started seeding straight into it and it was rough so I cultivated it last fall to try and smooth it out. Fast forward to my Barley crop this year pull in the field to do incrop spraying and this barley looks like crap short, leaves are yellow. So start doing headlands and make my way around to the cultivated quarter and it’s night and difference between the uncultivated stuff. So cultivating definitely helped break the chemical barrier left from the salute last year.
 

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We burnt the stubble off one oat quarter that was harvested insanely tough and just the bulk of it completely covered the ground.

Then as it turned out we didn’t get back there to seed it almost till the end. Figured it would be absolutely dried out when we finally did get there but the moisture was right at the top and was way more mellow than the stubble right next to it.

Plants came up way quicker and healthier and now come flower almost looks a week ahead.

Not advocating burning but how do I get there from here.

Direct seeded in both cases on the same day. Heavy heavy trash, like pretty much no black after the drill pass.

Even a nh3 pass in the fall make a huge difference on chem residue and ground warming, water infiltration.
 

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Soil temperature was king this spring , cool nights almost up till half June then we got little rain and higher night temps .
After this period crops started taking off.
No till works perfect but your always have slower crops .
If burning was without long term penalties it would be the best for early maturity and saving fuel .
 

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Discussion Starter #18
All very good points here. The prior canola crop was straight cut but both sides were the same this year as both sides were only heavy harrowed so ground temp, straw load etc should have been the same. It was seeded with a disc drill same day all as one field. I guess one possible explaination would be that the ground on the tilled side could have been a little more mellow from prior years tillage thus allowing a slightly deeper seeding depth as i did have the pressure set fairly high to get the seeds in. Probably a record dry year here for us so maybe it just took a little longer for the notill side to germ but i didnt notice any delay as the crop came up. Just seems to be getting behind as time goes on. yes the yeild at the end of the season will tell all. I will have to see if i can get someone to come out with a weigh wagon. Once soybean harvest starts here theres not a lot of spare time for someone to come and do some weighing. I also found that burning sure gives the next crop a big headstart.
 

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No till just doesn't work in some areas, especially heavy land and shorter growing season, and especially so when it's wet. Trust me, we tried for several years and just couldn't make it work. Our land needs a pass in the spring before seeding so we put the nitrogen down first. Heavy land just gets too hard and never dries on a wet year, then on a dry year it's so hard the water won't infiltrate.
 

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There was nothing obvious that im aware of. That being said if there was compaction issues i was under the impression that switching to no till would eventually take care of itself? The ground is heavy and it is hard now with it being so dry so i am starting to think that it just needs some help to loosen up with a bit of tillage. Ive used a lemken on other fields before seeding and the crops sure seemed to like that...
“Here” ie in this part of Aus w loamy, granite-derived, non-clay (so no shrink/swell) and no freeze/thaw happening on the soils; I’ve seen where people have switched to no-till (disc) system and the challenge has been that they’re building organic matter etc on the surface, but the deeper compaction and other damage from earlier mgmt practices are still there; and soil structure is taking a long time to change (growing annual crops also = limited window to develop robust root systems and to work through hard pans or for organic matter to build through the profile). This may resolve over time, but whether it’s the cost effective way to do it is another question entirely.

Ie I’ve seen one of their neighbouring operators (through the fence) who also switched over, but deep-ripped prior to switching and had an immediate and ongoing increase in productivity. It’s slightly off topic, but there’s plenty of cases in Aus where subsoil acidity is a major constraint on productivity and simply going to no-till alone is unlikely to resolve this issue e.g.
“A persistent acid layer (the ‘acid throttle’) at 7.5cm to 10cm was not corrected by the lime treatments and is still restricting growth.” https://grdc.com.au/resources-and-publications/grdc-update-papers/tab-content/grdc-update-papers/2019/02/latest-strategies-for-treatment-of-soil-acidification


From what you and others that know that part of the world better than me are saying it’s unlikely that either of these are what you’re encountering (and I would think it would be showing up on both sides of your paddock).

So, if you bring it back to first principles of plant needs, what’s the tillage supplying or doing better that the no-till isn’t?
Is it a better breakdown in plant or chemical residue, better nutrient release from residue, warmer soil earlier/healthier/more rapid growth in an area where lower temps limit growth, better aeration, more friable soil w less resistance to root growth, less water-logging, etc.? And from a business point of view which option (till, no-till) going to net you the most $/Ha
 
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