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Location: Integrated Cropping Systems Research

Title: Steps of yield advancement with no-till cropping systems in a semiarid climate

item Anderson, Randal

Submitted to: Grain
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 2/7/2013
Publication Date: 3/27/2013
Citation: Anderson, R.L. 2013. Steps of yield advancement with no-till cropping systems in a semiarid climate. Grain. 74:103-109.

Interpretive Summary: Crop yield in no-till systems have often exceeded producer expectations based on resource 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.

Technical Abstract: No-till systems have changed cropping practices in the United States. One change is that rotations are now comprised of a greater diversity of crops. Initially, no-till producers were reluctant to diversify crop rotations because some crops have low economic value. However, benefits gained from crop diversity can lead to yield gains that compensate for growing low-value crops. In the semiarid steppe of the United States, corn (Zea mays L.) yield in a no-till, crop-diverse rotation is similar to corn yield in a sub-humid region, even though the sub-humid site receives 25% more precipitation. This gain in corn productivity results from a series of yield advancements due to no-till, crop diversity, crop synergism, and soil microbial changes. Net returns are higher because of improved crop yield and lower input costs compared with conventional rotations comprised of one or two crops. Producers using no-till systems are striving for more diversity in rotations by considering alternative crop uses such as cover crops. They have broadened their perspective with crop management to include cultural tactics that improve soil functioning.