U.S. Department of Agriculture: Agricultural Research Service, Lincoln, Nebraska


Date of this Version



Agrosyst Geosci Environ. 2020;3:e20099.



This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License


Converting from standard tillage or no-tillage cropping systems to more conservation-based cropping systems that include no-tillage, cover crops, and reduced agrichemical inputs must be profitable for large-scale adoption. Therefore, research was conducted at the central Mississippi River Basin site of the USDA Long-Term Agroecosystem Research Network from 1996 to 2009 to determine how cropping systems, landscape position, and depth to claypan affected net economic return. Treatments consisted of three cropping systems {mulch-till corn (Zea mays L.)–soybean [Glycine max (L.) Merr.], MTCS; no-till corn–soybean, NTCS; no-till corn–soybean–wheat (Triticum aestivum L.) (NTCSW)–cover crop} and three landscape positions (summit, backslope, and footslope). Within each cropping system, landscape position influenced the depth to claypan and net returns, which were greatest in the summit and footslope positions. Across landscape positions, net return for NTCS was US$252 and $119 ha−1 yr−1 greater than MTCS and NTCSW, respectively. Net return of corn in MTCS and NTCSW was negative, whereas corn in NTCS averaged $97 ha−1 yr−1. Only NTCS corn exhibited a positive linear response in net return to depth to claypan. Soybean was much more profitable than corn, and both NTCS and NTCSW soybean were less influenced by landscape position and had at least $252 ha−1 yr−1 greater return than did MTCS soybean across landscape position. Results suggest that converting from MTCS to NTCS would have large positive impacts on reducing within-field variability and increasing profitability in the region, and modifications to the NTCSW system are needed to improve profitability.

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