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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Title: Economic Risk, Returns and Input Use under Ridge and Conventional Tillage in the Northern Corn Belt, Usa

Authors
item Archer, David
item Pikul Jr, Joseph
item Riedell, Walter

Submitted to: Soil & Tillage Research
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: March 28, 2002
Publication Date: September 4, 2002
Citation: ARCHER, D.W., PIKUL, J.L., JR, RIEDELL, W.E. ECONOMIC RISK, RETURNS AND INPUT USE UNDER RIDGE AND CONVENTIONAL TILLAGE IN THE NORTHERN CORN BELT, USA. SOIL & TILLAGE RESEARCH. 2002. V. 67. P. 1-8.

Interpretive Summary: There is an ongoing search for tillage methods that are environmentally friendly and economically viable. Ridge tillage has been proposed as a system that might provide environmental benefits of no-tillage without the production problems of no-tillage. However, few farmers in the northern Corn Belt use ridge tillage. Is this because ridge tillage is less profitable? In this paper, profits for a corn and soybean rotation under ridge tillage were compared to conventional tillage. Profits were found to be higher under ridge tillage. Adequate pest management and fertility inputs were critical in achieving highest profits. Profits were also slightly less variable under ridge tillage. There were no differences in revenue or operating costs, but equipment ownership costs were lower under ridge tillage. Pesticide use was higher under the ridge tillage system, but fuel and labor use were lower. Although these results are specific to one site, they show that ridge tillage can be a viable system in the northern Corn Belt. Farmers could significantly increase profits by switching to ridge tillage. Farmers and society could realize environmental benefits including reduced erosion and reduced fuel use, but pesticide use could increase with ridge tillage.

Technical Abstract: Economic returns, risk and input use were compared for ridge tillage (RT) and conventional tillage (CT) in a corn (Zea mays L.) and soybean {Glycine max (L.) Merr.} rotation with high, medium and low nitrogen treatments. The analysis was based on 10 years of experimental data from Brookings, South Dakota. Economic returns were significantly higher at the highest nitrogen treatment levels. Highest average net returns to land and management were $75 per hectare for RT at the high nitrogen treatment level (RT-H) followed by $59 per hectare for CT at the high nitrogen treatment level (CT-H). Risk, measured as the standard deviation of net returns, was lowest for CT at the medium nitrogen treatment level (CT-M) followed by RT-H and CT-H. However, net returns were substantially lower under CT-M at $32 per hectare. Average yields and average operating costs were not significantly different for RT-H and CT-H. Reduced equipment operating costs for CT-H were offset by increased herbicide costs for RT-H. Equipment ownership costs were significantly lower for RT-H than CT-H. There were no significant differences in fertilizer use for RT and CT. Pesticide use was significantly higher for RT-H than CT-H. Fuel use was 18-22% lower and labor use was 24-27% lower for RT-H than CT-H. Despite continued low adoption rates for ridge tillage in the northern Corn Belt, our analysis shows that ridge tillage is an economically viable alternative to conventional tillage. Farmers can use this information in deciding farming management styles.

Last Modified: 9/2/2014
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