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ARS Home » Southeast Area » Raleigh, North Carolina » Soybean and Nitrogen Fixation Research » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #386047

Research Project: Exploiting Genetic Diversity through Genomics, Plant Physiology, and Plant Breeding to Increase Competitiveness of U.S. Soybeans in Global Markets

Location: Soybean and Nitrogen Fixation Research

Title: No-till imparts yield stability and greater cumulative yield under variable weather conditions in the southeastern USA Piedmont

item MATHERS, CARA - North Carolina State University
item HEITMAN, JOSHA - North Carolina State University
item HUSETH, ANDERS - North Carolina State University
item Locke, Anna
item OSMOND, DEANNA - North Carolina State University
item WOODLEY, ALEXANDER - North Carolina State University

Submitted to: Field Crops Research
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 1/1/2023
Publication Date: 1/11/2023
Citation: Mathers, C., Heitman, J., Huseth, A., Locke, A.M., Osmond, D., Woodley, A. 2023. No-till imparts yield stability and greater cumulative yield under variable weather conditions in the southeastern USA Piedmont. Field Crops Research.

Interpretive Summary: Conservation tillage, or no tillage, is of interest for improving agricultural sustainability as well as potential long-term yield benefits. A long-term tillage study showed although the impact of no-till management varied from year to year, no-till management increased the probability of higher and more stable corn and soybean yields over a 28 year period. Conservation tillage was more likely to benefit corn than soybean.

Technical Abstract: With projected increases in global temperatures and changes in regional climate, understanding the impact of soil management choices on yield stability is critical for farmer decision-making and agricultural resiliency. Because no-till and conservation tillage have had variable yield effects depending on crop and location, system-specific studies are necessary to gauge potential benefits. Yield and weather data from a long-term tillage study (28 years) in the Piedmont of North Carolina were analyzed to determine the effect of various conservation tillage practices on corn and soybean productivity and stability under a variety of growth conditions. Growing seasons were grouped by soil moisture and temperature during crop growth stages, and mean crop yields and yield coefficient of variation for the tillage treatments were calculated within the year clusters. Probability density estimations were also used to predict the likelihood of obtaining yields at low and high percentiles. No-till and conservation tillage increased corn yields (42-93%) and the stability of corn yields when soil moisture was low, but did not have as substantial of an effect on soybean yields. However, the probability of reaching the 90th yield percentile was greater in no-till than conventional tillage in both corn and soybean, by 15% and 10%, respectively. Treatment yield differentiation occurred quickly after the study’s initialization; this, coupled with previous reports of crusting at the site, lead us to believe that no-till and other conservation tillage treatments were able to prevent surface sealing, thereby increasing infiltration and providing more plant available water during times of plant stress. For future conditions in which precipitation is infrequent and/or heavy, no-till provides the best assurance of higher and more stable yields in the region.