Tillage Options Going into 2020

Minimum tillage stewardship has been the preferred crop production system across this corridor of the Northern Plains for a decade and more. Unfortunately, the never-before-seen weather conditions over the past year have growers making some tough decisions about field preparation for the 2020 planting season. Some of those decisions include having to hitch up some equipment that hasn’t been used in a while.

“We hate having to recommend this, but good old fashioned disking and chiseling may be necessary for leveling out fields that have some deep ruts cut into them from chopping silage, running the combine and other recent field work,” says Agtegra’s Brian Baum, Precision Ag Hardware Sales.  

Many of the compaction areas, says Baum, may need some deep tillage to fully correct. None of this will be a quick one-year fix. “For compaction as well as seed bed issues, there’s going to have to be some special management of these fields as we return to more normal conditions,” says Baum.

Anticipate leveling them out, if conditions permit, later this fall. Then using some deep tillage field work as wet areas subside, to help with compaction issues.

None of this, says Baum, is the stewardship news that will be exactly welcomed by growers. “I know this is a hard pill to swallow for our solid no-till growers,” says Baum. “But with the damage being seen in fields, it’s going to take some work so they can return to optimum conditions.”

Another option to discuss with your agronomist is vertical tillage possibilities. Various equipment dealers offer lighter tillage options, that can level fields and incorporate residue, which can promote soil dry-down.  

Finally, while this year’s strip tillage operations have ended for the season, it holds some possibility for this spring. “This is a system that I believe in, as it has really worked well for many customers,” says Baum. “It could also be part of the continuing conversation you have with your agronomist over the winter, as you manage the field effects from the near non-stop wet conditions of 2019.”