If you have fields with standing cornstalks that you are planning to plant soybeans into this spring, you may be searching for the best way is to prepare the seedbed. With the low prices for soybeans, there are ways to cut costs in most cases, but still maintain productivity. The Hancock Soil & Water Conservation District (SWCD) would encourage you to give no-till a try.
Kit Paper, Boone River Watershed Coordinator, reminds producers, “There are several cost-share opportunities available in the area, including financial assistance through the Environmental Quality Incentives Program, a statewide Water Quality Initiative program that pays $10/acre (max of 160 acres), and a Boone River Watershed project that could pay $15/acre (max of 320 acres) if you are within the Eagle or Prairie Creek Watersheds.”
You can visit with Kit or any of our other USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) or SWCD employees in our Garner, Algona, Clarion, or Humboldt USDA Service Centers for more information about financial assistance options.
The Value of No-Till
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If you are concerned about yields, Iowa State University studies show no-till soybeans typically yield the same as tilled fields, and no-tilling costs less per acre ($15-30/acre) which will help your bottom line. No-till has positive impacts on soil health, productivity, and profitability under extreme weather events.
There may be some challenges in managing corn residue, but tillage is not the answer. Modifying the planter by adding residue cleaners, down pressure springs, or other residue management attachments are far more cost effective given the environmental cost and economic expense associated with conventional tillage.
Most of the planters in the field today are ready to handle the challenges of planting into no-till conditions. The main adjustment that needs to be made is to have the planter operator get off the tractor seat and ensure the planter is properly placing the seeds at the correct depth. If planting too shallow, check if down pressure is adequate before adjusting seed depth. This is something to keep in mind if you have individual boxes on your planter. If they are empty you have much less down pressure compared to when they are filled. Some planters have sensors and automatically adjust down pressure to keep row units in the ground.
We are here at the NRCS office to help you answer the questions about no-till. In addition to information, we also have financial assistance programs available if you are trying no-till for the first time. We also have a group of farmers who have been using no-till on their farms who would be willing to help answer questions. These farmers have made the switch from conventional tillage and are making no-till work on their farm.