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Reducing tillage intensity

soil with crop residue on top of it.
Crop residue in a reduced tillage system.

Reducing soil tillage intensity presents many benefits, challenges and some required changes to your field operations. Benefits include:

  • Reduced soil erosion, fuel use, time and labor
  • Building soil organic matter
  • Improved soil structure
  • Maintaining options for soil warm up and dry down in the spring months

Conversely, the challenges include:

  • Learning a new tillage system
  • Changing equipment costs
  • Managing residue build-up over time
  • Patience
  • Perhaps going against local traditions

Benefits of reduced tillage

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Changing tillage practices

When considering a change in tillage practice, you’ll need to change many other parts of your system. For example, weed control and fertilizer applications that worked with chisel plowing likely won’t work well for a no-till system, and vice versa.

Changes to the system may not always line up well with family or neighbor traditions and perceptions. Increasing your farm’s efficiency will likely require a combination of traditional and innovative adjustments to field operations in order to achieve the greatest economic gains.

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Jodi DeJong-Hughes, Extension educator and Aaron Daigh, soil scientist, North Dakota State University

Reviewed in 2018

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