INTEGRATED AGRICULTURAL SYSTEMS FOR THE NORTHERN GREAT PLAINS
Location: Northern Great Plains Research Laboratory
Title: Economic performance of alternative tillage systems in the northern Corn Belt
Submitted to: Agronomy Journal
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: December 2, 2008
Publication Date: March 4, 2009
Citation: Archer, D.W., Reicosky, D.C. 2009. Economic Performance of Alternative Tillage Systems in the Northern Corn Belt. Agronomy Journal. 101:296-304.
Interpretive Summary: While no-till crop production can provide conservation benefits in the northern Corn Belt, farmers continue to use conventional tillage due to concerns about yield reductions and economic risk. Strip-tillage systems have been proposed as an alternative that may provide many of the conservation benefits of no-till while maintaining productivity and economic returns. However, the economic performance of these systems is not known. The objective was to determine if no-till and strip-till systems can be profitable alternatives to conventional tillage systems for corn and soybean production in the northern Corn Belt. Results showed that average profits were higher with no-till, and two strip-tillage alternatives than for moldboard plow tillage. No-till and four strip-tillage alternatives were also less risky than conventional chisel and moldboard plow systems. The results are important to farmers in the northern Corn Belt, demonstrating tillage practices that can increase profitability while protecting soils and the environment.
While no-till (NT) cropping systems can provide conservation benefits in the northern Corn Belt, adoption has been low due to concerns about potential yield reductions and economic risk. Strip-tillage (ST) systems have been proposed as an alternative that may provide many of the conservation benefits of NT while maintaining productivity and economic returns. The objectives of this study were to evaluate the effects of NT and five ST alternatives: fall residue management (Fall RM), fall residue management plus strip-till (Fall RM + Strip), spring residue management (Spring RM), spring residue management plus strip-till (Spring RM + Strip), and fall residue management plus subsoil (Fall RM + Subsoil), relative to conventional moldboard plow (MP) and chisel plow (CP) tillage systems on corn (Zea mays L.) and soybean [Glycine max (L.) Merr.] yields and economic risks and returns. Average yields over the 7 year study were not significantly different among tillage systems, but average net returns for NT, Fall RM, and Spring RM were $85, 92, and 53 ha-1 higher, respectively, than for MP. Risk analysis showed tillage system preferences ranked as: Fall RM > NT > Fall RM + Strip > Spring RM + Strip, Spring RM > CP > Fall RM + Subsoil > MP for risk neutral or risk averse producers facing uncertain yield, crop price, and input price conditions. Thus ST and NT may be economically viable alternatives to conventional tillage systems for corn and soybean production in the northern Corn Belt.