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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Research Project: SOIL AND CROP MANAGEMENT SYSTEMS FOR IMPROVED NATURAL RESOURCE QUALITY AND EFFICIENCY

Location: North Central Agricultural Research Laboratory

Title: Surprising yields with no-till cropping systems

Author
item Anderson, Randal

Submitted to: Meeting Proceedings
Publication Type: Proceedings
Publication Acceptance Date: January 30, 2014
Publication Date: January 30, 2014
Citation: Anderson, R.L. 2014. Surprising yields with no-till cropping systems. No-till on the Plains Conference Proceedings, Salina KS, January 28-29, 2014.

Interpretive Summary: Producers using no-till practices have found that after several years of no-till, their crop yields are higher than expected. Crop yields appear to increase even if inputs such as fertilizer or water supply are not increased. We describe in this paper an example of a producer in central South Dakota who is experiencing this yield enhancement with no-till. His corn yields 7% higher than tilled systems in eastern South Dakota. This increase in yield occurs with 5 inches less water and 10,000 less plants per acre. We attribute this improve crop performance to changes in microbial functioning and improved soil health. Producers are increasing crop yield without having to increase resource inputs. Producers are exploring cultural practices, such as cover crops, to enhance the impact of microbial processes on crop growth.

Technical Abstract: Producers using no-till systems have found that crop yields often exceed their expectation based on nutrient and water supply. For example, corn yields 7% higher in a no-till system in central South Dakota than in a tilled system in eastern South Dakota. This is surprising because rainfall is 5 inches less in central South Dakota; also, corn is planted at 10,000 fewer plants. We perceive that this yield benefit from no-till results from a series of yield advancement resulting from no-till, crop diversity, synergism among crops, and changes with the microbial community. Producers are increasing crop yield without necessarily having to increase resource inputs. The current focus of producers is to enhance the impact of microbial processes on crop growth. They have broadened their perspective with crop management to include cultural tactics that improve soil functioning.

Last Modified: 10/1/2014
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