Biological Systems Engineering


Date of this Version



Journal of Production Agriculture, Volume 7, no. 4, October-December 1994


In Nebraska, early adopters of conservation tillage, especially those using no-till planting, had some concerns regarding planter performance, early season weed control, and possible yield reductions. Selected tillage and planting systems were used long term to evaluate effects on soybean [Glycine max (L.) Merr.] and grain sorghum [Sorghum bicolor (L.) Moench] yield, soil properties, and residue cover in a non-irrigated rotation. The six tillage and planting systems selected for evaluation were: no-till, no-till with row-crop cultivation, disk, double disk, chisel, and plow. In 1981, two sets of field plots were established near Lincoln, NE, on a Sharpsburg silty clay loam (fine, montmorillonitic, mesic Typic Argiudolls) so that both crops could be evaluated each year. Measurements were not taken until completion of one crop rotation cycle. After this cycle, for the first 3 yr of yield measurements, no differences occurred in grain yield among the tillage and planting systems. After five additional years, differences in yield were measured, with no-till tending to have the greatest yield for both crops. Row-crop cultivation of no-till soybean did not result in any measurable yield differences, but for grain sorghum, row-crop cultivation resulted in an average yield decrease of 6 bu/acre. Soil organic matter tended to be greatest for the continuous no-till system and lowest for the plow system. The plow system had slightly less penetration resistance within the 4- to 8-in. depth than the other treatments, whereas, the double-disk system was slightly greater within the 2- to 6-in. depth. Draft and power requirements for planting in the selected tillage and planting systems were not different The major difference among the tillage and planting systems was residue cover remaining after planting. No-till had the most residue cover, but there was no appreciable accumulation of residue over the 10 yr of continuous use of the tillage and planting systems. For the last 5 yr, no-till tended to have the greatest yield for both crops. Thus, for the soil and conditions evaluated, no-till yields were as good as the other systems during early years, and were better after 5 yr of continuous use. Thus, producers adopting no-till and other residue management practices have the opportunity to enhance profitability because of the same or greater yields and reduced production costs by eliminating tillage operations.