Observers Question Why So Many People Chisel Plow Soybean Stubble

Observers Question Why So Many People Chisel Plow Soybean Stubble

Corn Illustrated: Experts still insist it's not necessary and exposes soil to erosion.

Some thought the late harvest would limit the amount of fall tillage done. Maybe it did to an extent, but in many areas lots of fields are still tilled. You can see them as you drive through the countryside. Some of the areas are fairly flat, but fields are also chiseled where it's not flat.

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A rare sight? In some areas soybean stubble left alone over winter is hard to find – at least harder to find than many think it should be.

They make a sharp contrast to fields where cover crops are growing. If the cover crop is a brassica, such as turnips, they have lots of growth and are easy to spot. If it's a grass, like annual ryegrass, it may be small. Don't be fooled, however. Soil conservation experts claim that even if ryegrass is only one to three inches tall next spring, it can have roots four feet deep. It's the rooting action that reportedly benefits the soil the most, and improves soil health.

Ray McCormick, Vincennes, Ind., says that while some with flat soils may thing they don't have to worry about fall plowing or seeding cover crops instead, many of them are still allowing soil to wash or blow off their fields. He has checked the information provided by the Natural Resources Conservation Service, and says that in most cases, where a field is tilled and left mostly bare over winter, especially if there wasn't much residue to begin with, as after soybeans, soil loss above the tolerable limit still normally occurs.

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He prefers to tie his soil down with cover crops, and then no-till into them in the spring. He farms river bottoms, and still no-tills and grows cover crops. He also farms some rolling land, where he has no-tilled for nearly three decades.

With the cost of fuel and equipment, it just doesn't make sense to see so many fields chisel-plowed after soybeans, one observer says. He adds that farmers really need to push the pencil to see if that's their best option in the future.

TAGS: Soybean
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