If you're a no-tiller, this has been your kind of fall up until now. You likely have your crops out of the field or the end is in sight. Your neighbors probably do too. But many of them may be leaving their tillage tools parked, waiting for more rain. That means you don't have to get excited, knowing you're neighbors are running and you're not. Even the most avid no-tiller still feels a twinge when his neighbors are out turning dirt and he's just doing touch up work on equipment and field plans for next year, more than likely sitting in hi office.
If you like to till, it's been a tough one. Two farmers reported last week that even though they've had a little bit of rain, they tried chisel-plowing and couldn't get their chisel plow tool into the ground. The sweeps on the shanks refused to penetrate the soil deep enough into the soil to get good suction and hold the plow in the ground.
A few seed growers have been spotted out with moldboard plows. They apparently can run deep enough to turn over stalk residue from seed fields and do a reasonably good job. Overall, unless you have a special need like seed production, most people are past the point where they want to moldboard plow and turn the entire amount of residue on top under, leaving the soil completely exposed during the winter.
Even people running the vertical tillage tools, the newest craze, especially for those thinking about minimum tillage, have been in a quandary about whether to run their machines or not. Some received a half-inch of rain a couple of weeks ago, and used it to take their tools to the field. Within a couple days, however, the soil had dried back out enough that some of them quit. They questioned how much actual incorporation of residue they were doing when the soil was so dry they couldn't get any mixing to speak of.
Toy Vyn, a Purdue University Extension specialist, made a statement last week cautioning farmers to remember that no matter what the previous crop, all they might be doing this fall by tillage of any kind is expensive recreation tillage. He suggested farmers know how much fuel they are burning to pull various rigs across the field.