INTEGRATED AGRICULTURAL SYSTEMS FOR THE NORTHERN GREAT PLAINS
Location: Northern Great Plains Research Laboratory
Title: ECONOMICS OF IRRIGATED CONTINUOUS CORN UNDER CONVENTIONAL-TILL AND NO-TILL IN NORTHERN COLORADO
Submitted to: Agronomy Journal
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: March 13, 2008
Publication Date: June 23, 2008
Citation: Archer, D.W., Halvorson, A.D., Reule, C.A. 2008. Economics of irrigated continuous corn under conventional-till and no-till in northern colorado. Agronomy Journal, 100:1166-1172.
Interpretive Summary: While no-till irrigated crop production in Northern Colorado would be environmentally beneficial, farmers continue to use conventional tillage for economic reasons. Costs of production and economic returns were evaluated for irrigated continuous corn under conventional tillage and no-till. Results showed that corn yields were lower for no-till than for conventional-till. However, production costs were also lower for no-till than for conventional-till. As a result, profits were higher for no-till than for conventional-till. The results of this study are important to farmers in Northern Colorado who are looking for ways to increase profits while protecting the environment.
Conversion of irrigated cropland from conventional tillage (CT) to no-till (NT) could have several environmental benefits including reduced erosion potential, reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, and conservation of water. However NT must be economically viable if it is to be adopted. Costs of production and economic returns were evaluated for an irrigated, continuous corn (Zea mays L.) system under CT and NT over 6 years on a clay loam soil in Northern Colorado. Yield responses to nitrogen (N) fertilization were included to determine economic optimum fertilization rates under each tillage system. Corn grain yields at economic optimum N fertilizer rates were 1.1-1.4 Mg ha-1 lower for NT than for CT. However, net returns were $39-65 ha-1 higher for NT than for CT due to reductions in operating costs of $50-106 ha-1 and reductions in machinery ownership costs of $87-90 ha-1. Operating cost savings were realized largely due to fuel and labor reductions of 75% and 71-72%, respectively, and in spite of higher N fertilizer requirements of 16-55 kg ha-1 for NT compared to CT. No-till, irrigated, continuous corn appears to be an economically viable option for replacing CT production systems in the central Great Plains, especially when combined with the environmental benefits of NT system.
Abbreviations: CT, conventional plow tillage system; NT, no-till; SOC, soil organic carbon.