2017 No-till Corn

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2017 No-till Corn

Post by Bio Farmer on Wed Mar 15, 2017 1:28 pm

We set ourselves up to have 50 acres of no-till corn for the 2017 season. All the acres had the same treatment following the 2016 pea seed crop. The peas were harvested around the 15th of July but the cover crop was not planted until around the 10th of August (far from ideal, I know).

Our cover crop mix was 30 lbs Sudan grass, 2 lbs daikon, 2 lbs red clover, and 10 lbs common vetch. The idea was to have the Sudan produce some high-carbon cover while the radishes provided quick ground cover and weed suppression. Those plants would then winter-kill while the clover and vetch were left to take advantage of the early spring months and fix some nitrogen.

Due to the late planting date and a cool Autumn, the Sudan grass did not provide the bulk residue we expected before it frosted but everything else looks good heading into winter.

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Re: 2017 No-till Corn

Post by Bio Farmer on Wed Nov 15, 2017 1:07 pm

The red clover did not do well in this circumstance. I think it was planted too deep and failed to make much of a stand. I think if I were to use this mix again I would maybe sprinkle the clover on top of the ground somehow or maybe dribble it out of the small seeder on my drill rather than mix it with the vetch and plant it 1.5" dep.

Common vetch survived the winter fairly well. In some places, like the photo, it did very well. Other places it was considerable thinner. It appears there was vetch plants in those thin areas at one time but they died. I can probably blame this problem on the 2' of snow cover this past winter but it will certainly be worth watching in the future.

This photo is of the common vetch in the thickest stand on the farm just as I arrived to terminate it with a blend of 2,4-D and RoundUp. This just happened to be a gravity-irrigated field but the sprinkler field had some patches that were just as good. The bigger plants you see sprinkled around in the background are some forage brassicas that just happened to be mixed in some remnant seed from the past year.


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Re: 2017 No-till Corn

Post by Bio Farmer on Wed Nov 15, 2017 1:16 pm

As you can see, my cover termination was very successful, leaving no competition for my upcoming corn crop. I am still disappointed in the bulk residue left by my cover crop, especially the sudan grass. I can see I will still need to dammer-dike this field because of the low residue and hillsides.

The topsoil is in great condition at planting time with some cover, many worm holes, and many worm castings. When digging seed behind the planter to check depth and population there has been a live worm in every 18" trench. It sure makes me feel successful to see that much activity for my seedling crop.



With the surplus of rain this spring, I was surprised to find these no-till fields never really got muddy like many neighboring conventional fields. The ground got moist for sure but it did not prevent planting very long after the rains had ended. We didn't see any slabs, open trenches, or clods normally associated with planting in wet conditions. These factors allowed us to plant our corn on time despite a wet spring.


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Re: 2017 No-till Corn

Post by Bio Farmer on Thu Jan 04, 2018 5:13 am

Just a few final thoughts now that the season has ended. As with previous years, there is very little difference between my no-till fields and conventional fields in terms of appearance or final yield. We are seeing excellent stands and seedling emergence on our no-till fields. At this point I can't see any reason to justify the expense of even doing our minimum/vertical tillage ahead of a corn crop.

The only field that had any real yield difference was one where we started tissue testing and focusing on our nutrition program. Tissue testing highlighted some surprising nutrient deficiencies in our corn that will be the focus of our experimentation in the next season. Calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, and some micro-nutrients all came up short at some point during the season despite high soil test values. Nutrient tie-up and availability are a bigger factor than I thought, apparently.

I would recommend Texas Plant and Soil Lab for tissue testing at this point because they seem to have a far more advanced program than any other lab I have run across. More info can be found at Texas Plant and Soil.

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