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Did the no-till ever catch up?

Once again this year, I see why I don't do tillage. We had almost daily rain since and during seeding. Compaction spots are showing up in all fields, but anything that was tilled for any reason this spring is disasterous. When conditions are wet to muddy, I can seed right into it, and the only real penalty is the wheel tracks when turning on the headlands, but if I touch it with tillage, especially a disc, and especially if it keeps being too wet, I might as well have not bothered seeding it.

Tillage seems to work for most of the neighbors though, so must be something I am doing wrong.
 

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Did the no-till ever catch up?

Once again this year, I see why I don't do tillage. We had almost daily rain since and during seeding. Compaction spots are showing up in all fields, but anything that was tilled for any reason this spring is disasterous. When conditions are wet to muddy, I can seed right into it, and the only real penalty is the wheel tracks when turning on the headlands, but if I touch it with tillage, especially a disc, and especially if it keeps being too wet, I might as well have not bothered seeding it.

Tillage seems to work for most of the neighbors though, so must be something I am doing wrong.
Try doing your tillage in late fall instead. Trying to till mud in spring is a bad strategy, but some fall tillage seems to work here to break down straw and allow soil to warm quicker in spring.
 

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Try doing your tillage in late fall instead. Trying to till mud in spring is a bad strategy, but some fall tillage seems to work here to break down straw and allow soil to warm quicker in spring.
Definitely, if it needs to be done, do it in the fall and let the frost take care of the damage. Trouble is, we have been doing most of our harvesting in November on frozen ground in recent years, so the window is short to put it mildly. Almost no fall tillage happened here last year.

In my case, the reason I was doing spring tillage is on new to me land, or places where I had cleaned up trees or fences, then if I overlapped into existing no till crop land, that is where the night and day difference shows up.

Before I took the leap to no till, I was doing all field work in the fall, then direct seeding in the spring

If I have to do spring field work, my prefered method is plowing, and seeding right into it, works every time, regardless how wet it is, but unbearably rough, and only works on decent sized and shaped fields, and doesn't work with tree roots, or peat moss etc.
 

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Does anyone else spray liquid N on in the fall to help speed up decomposition? 3 to 4 gallons per acre on irrigated wheat stubble (100 to 140 bu) in the fall eliminated our hair pinning problems...


As far as dryland in our area goes, with only 8" to 10" of annual precipitation, if anyone had the nerve to till, they would likely get strung up by their downwind neighbors.
 

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so got the same heavy clay and last year lots of people went no till. this spring which was colder was not good for it and i think hurt yield. we seen side wall compaction with disc drill and higher seed mortality. also when we got 6 inches of rain in one week the no till had water sitting on it for 2 weeks where the tillage it soaked in a lot better. usauly 3 passes with cultivator i think in the dry years a light pass with cultivator or disk in fall is the best. cant do spring tillage here or it seems to just dry out the soil to much and make major compaction. best would be strip till i think but that works better in row crops. wanna do some deep ripping in order to get roots deeper in dry years and let moisture seep down faster and utilize the water holding capacity of clay soils better. cant compare canada with australia since australia needs to hold moisture during summer months were canada nothing gets lost when we dont have a crop on the field since its 20 below and 5ft of snow
 

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Discussion Starter #26
Did the no-till ever catch up?

Once again this year, I see why I don't do tillage. We had almost daily rain since and during seeding. Compaction spots are showing up in all fields, but anything that was tilled for any reason this spring is disasterous. When conditions are wet to muddy, I can seed right into it, and the only real penalty is the wheel tracks when turning on the headlands, but if I touch it with tillage, especially a disc, and especially if it keeps being too wet, I might as well have not bothered seeding it.

Tillage seems to work for most of the neighbors though, so must be something I am doing wrong.
I havent walked the field lately but driving by you cant see any visual difference now. Earlier after noticing the difference i did some walking and it would appear that the yellower spots are where there is more wheat stubble laying on the surface from two years prior. Im not sure what to make of that but with our cooler unusally dry spring i am wondering if it was cold soil delaying the plants?? The field germinated evenly but maybe the soil stayed cooler longer and just held the plants back over time? Thats all i can come up with for now. Any thoughts?
 

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My neighbour has been doing CTF farming for 6 years now and has been notill for as long as I remember, we were dry till end of June and it’s been wet ever since but his crops are looking amazing good considering all the rain we had but nothing growing in the tracks.
I am starting to think he’s onto something with the CTF because a field of peas right beside his are 70% drowned out and his only in the tracks and in our area it’s heavy gumbo
 

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My neighbour has been doing CTF farming for 6 years now and has been notill for as long as I remember, we were dry till end of June and it’s been wet ever since but his crops are looking amazing good considering all the rain we had but nothing growing in the tracks.
I am starting to think he’s onto something with the CTF because a field of peas right beside his are 70% drowned out and his only in the tracks and in our area it’s heavy gumbo
Maybe nutrient tie-up (N); can also get growth-suppression or allelopathy like effects from extra stubble mulch(?)

https://grdc.com.au/resources-and-publications/grdc-update-papers/tab-content/grdc-update-papers/2018/02/the-effects-of-stubble-on-nitrogen-tie-up-and-supply
There lots of stuff going on in that Govt research article in Australia and am sure I do not understand all the variables/area. Curious though as to how/what they used to deep band the N with? Would not think this fits into zero till that supposed to be norm over there, but than these sites all seem to be much higher rainfall than most of Australia? I am actually surprised that the deep banding did not provide even larger yield benefit over the surface applied given some of the fertilizer efficiency stuff put out over in Canada.

Had a few different things for me going on this Spring. In typical conditions around here I would broadcast "cheaper" fertilizer in late Fall(just before ground freezeup), incorporate it with tillage, and seed in Spring. Because it was so dry last yr and fertilizer really not much of a deal did none of that. Soil tests that were done last Fall showed some ground with extremely high amounts of N(not used by small crop produced on dry season), but on other stuff there was just moderately more N. Direct seeded this Spring in very good conditions(relatively dry for here), but when it did start raining in early June applied UAN at not even half the actual rate of N that would typically put on this ground(in the rain/snow). Granted, there has been very "growthy" conditions here since start of June, but the response that I think I see from this lower rate would seem like it may be coming from lower N tie-up from less stubble last year as well.

Maybe it is variable area conditions we have around here from year to year, but with conditions we have going into this Fall(not too wet yet, but 2 or more " through September could change that) I will be back to some tillage. However, even though fertilizer will be "relatively" cheap think about the only stuff I will put on will be spraying some UAN on heavy stubble that will not till(as mentioned by Red neck above) and maybe another round of Biosul on some as well. I will compare this to stuff that apply more UAN to next Spring. Tillage does cost money as does applying more N, and working around too much trash. Finding proper balance to this stuff is the goal.
 

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so got the same heavy clay and last year lots of people went no till. this spring which was colder was not good for it and i think hurt yield. we seen side wall compaction with disc drill and higher seed mortality. also when we got 6 inches of rain in one week the no till had water sitting on it for 2 weeks where the tillage it soaked in a lot better. usauly 3 passes with cultivator i think in the dry years a light pass with cultivator or disk in fall is the best. cant do spring tillage here or it seems to just dry out the soil to much and make major compaction. best would be strip till i think but that works better in row crops. wanna do some deep ripping in order to get roots deeper in dry years and let moisture seep down faster and utilize the water holding capacity of clay soils better. cant compare canada with australia since australia needs to hold moisture during summer months were canada nothing gets lost when we dont have a crop on the field since its 20 below and 5ft of snow
Not sure I would write off no-till based on one year of experience. It takes a few years for the real benefits of decreased compaction to really show up. I'm always disappointed with the first year of no-till. But it only gets better from there as OM and water infiltration improve.

Typical experience with no-till locally goes like this:

Farmer has 20 year old hay/pasture sod that hasn't seen fertilizer for a decade or more, rootbound and full of dormant quackgrass. Wants to save the cost of working up the sod, so hires it Sprayed once in the spring, and hires a no till drill to seed cereals into it, using the same seeding rate and fertilizer rate he would use on good crop land.

Then be really upset and blame no-till when the quackgrass etc. takes over, germination is poor, is drastically short on nutrients all year, and doesn't amount to anything.

Realistically, if they had sprayed it the fall before, and again in the spring at high rates, then doubled the fertilizer, and increased the seeding rates, and ideally seeded something that allows spraying grass in crop, it would work, but would cost more than the tillage would have to start with.
 

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Have had an interesting experience with this over the last year. My neighbour has been zero till for the last 10 years or so and we have been minimum till for the last 15 years or more. The only difference being that he has been using a disc drill and we have been using a tyne for sowing. He has been watching his yields decline compared to ours over that time and it got to the point where we were more than doubling his yields. He finally discovered the culprit. Compaction. We are pretty sure it has been caused by the disc drill. Has been interesting to see evidence of the same problem from different parts of the globe.

Here is a photo of the problem.




Here is a photo of a paddock where he did one pass with a ripper. The results are staggering!




He has ripped several paddocks and they are all looking great whereas the unripped ones have now failed. I am not sure if this is a symptom of these particular soil types, a symptom of this particular disc drill or a combination of both but in these set of circumstances zero till was not working at all.
 

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Some land just can't be zero tilled. I know from experience.
 

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Have had an interesting experience with this over the last year. My neighbour has been zero till for the last 10 years or so and we have been minimum till for the last 15 years or more. The only difference being that he has been using a disc drill and we have been using a tyne for sowing. He has been watching his yields decline compared to ours over that time and it got to the point where we were more than doubling his yields. He finally discovered the culprit. Compaction. We are pretty sure it has been caused by the disc drill. Has been interesting to see evidence of the same problem from different parts of the globe.

Here is a photo of the problem.




Here is a photo of a paddock where he did one pass with a ripper. The results are staggering!




He has ripped several paddocks and they are all looking great whereas the unripped ones have now failed. I am not sure if this is a symptom of these particular soil types, a symptom of this particular disc drill or a combination of both but in these set of circumstances zero till was not working at all.
I can make roots of canola look like that with just one ill-timed, Spring, pre-plant disking so can certainly believe what would happen even under a zero-till, disk drill environment. All tillage is not the same and think aside from different soil types the amount of moisture plays a role as well.

FWIW - I think there is land/areas where no-till works enough of the time(IE - over 80%) where it is a good option. However, for those of us stuck in more variable, typically higher moisture zones it is not the preferred "economic" option. When you can see the "pioneer" of the area who has been zero till for 20years, yields are lower, loses land, yields go higher on land that was lost, it is very obvious. This would not be a one-time cowboy experiment no-tilling into rootbound sod either.

However, the economics are interesting as the one thing that zero-till has going for it in any environment is that it is cheaper. People who focus more on controlling costs can try to justify the practice based on this. The same people would likely argue that farming/mkts are so risky that you really do not know what your revenues are going to be so that is why you need to focus on cost. I would disagree and have insurable yields(this does cost even more money) to prove that.
 

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Does anyone else spray liquid N on in the fall to help speed up decomposition? 3 to 4 gallons per acre on irrigated wheat stubble (100 to 140 bu) in the fall eliminated our hair pinning problems...


As far as dryland in our area goes, with only 8" to 10" of annual precipitation, if anyone had the nerve to till, they would likely get strung up by their downwind neighbors.
What form of liquid N do you use and what time in the fall do you put it on?
 

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So I was able to harvest some soybeans this week and got the field in this post done. It looks like the yield was the same to 2 bushels less depending on the area of the field. I had another no till field seeded into wheat and it was the lowest yeilding field as well. This year was our driest year i can remember. Our largest rainfall amount was 17mm at one time with a couple 12mm and the rest 2-5mm for a total of about 150mm so no good soaking rains and we were dry last year so subsoil moisture was somewhat depleted. In the soybeans the yeild drag wiuld be offset by the reduction in tillage expense but in the wheat the difference was greater. In the dry years notill is supposed to shine but its not looking that way. Some valid points were made earlier about possible compaction issues so how do these get addressed in a 100 day growing region? By the time the crop comes off there is 10 to at most 30 days frost free for something like tillage radish to be used. Is that enough? Then theres years like this year where is doesnt stop raining when harvest starts so the available fall seeding window is pretty small and me being a one man operation free time is nonexistent. Id like to keep the notill experiment going but am not sure where to go from here... any suggestions? Is there a way to measure/define/determine compaction or soil structure? How can it be addressed in short growing season areas?
 

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Is there a way to measure/define/determine compaction or soil structure? How can it be addressed in short growing season areas?
You could buy or fabricate a penetrometer; that will help you map out some areas OR if it’s shallow enough compaction go do some scouting w a shovel
 

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What form of liquid N do you use and what time in the fall do you put it on?

Either 28 or 32, whatever we have in the bulk tanks. As soon as we are done with harvest and we get it harrowed, we just apply it with the pivot.
 

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We re in the same dirt, north Interlake. Been direct seeding since '11.

Minimal tillage works just fine on the sandier soils but it's really shitting the bed on some of the more grey wooded/concrete clay type stuff.

With all the ruts now we re going to be doing a bunch of cultivating on a whole pile of acres for the first time in years and we figure it will only help it. Probably just going to do adhoc tillage certain land seems to respond to a good fluffing once in awhile.

Then again we re not too fussy. Weather seems to be the biggest factor for us regardless of the way we throw the seed in the ground.
 

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I'm going to start going over wherever I plan on seeding canola with my Lemkin in the fall! (Spring this year) Will have warmer soil and better seedbed to seed into, I think I'll get faster more even germination. Have had patchy and slow germination with the cooler springs we've had the last couple of years. When the canola comes out so slow and uneven, the flea beetles also seem to have a heyday in it! Have been zero tilling for close to 25 years, so I've built up a layer of organic matter that keeps the ground insulated quite well in the spring, and only warms up after I've seeded it.
 

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We re in the same dirt, north Interlake. Been direct seeding since '11.

Minimal tillage works just fine on the sandier soils but it's really shitting the bed on some of the more grey wooded/concrete clay type stuff.

With all the ruts now we re going to be doing a bunch of cultivating on a whole pile of acres for the first time in years and we figure it will only help it. Probably just going to do adhoc tillage certain land seems to respond to a good fluffing once in awhile.

Then again we re not too fussy. Weather seems to be the biggest factor for us regardless of the way we throw the seed in the ground.
That is opposite to my observations "here". And opposite to what I expected when I first set out to try No-Till. We are in the grey wooded soil zone, it is pure clay and packs like concrete. If it is the slightest bit too wet, which it nearly always is in the spring, I can only do more harm than good in trying to fluff it up, it just packs it worse. yet the sandier spots( few and far between), or the mellow black, respond well to tillage, since they just don't compact.
 
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