You still see soybean fields worked in the fall, sometimes with a field cultivator, or maybe a chisel plow. I even saw one plowed with a moldboard plow this year.
However, apparently many people are leaving the tillage equipment parked and leaving residue on the surface over winter. A transect study conducted by Indiana's Soil Conservation partnership team discovered that a large number of fields came out of the winter still with reside intact.
Based on the statewide, random survey, 77% of the corn acres harvested last fall were left as corn stalks overwinter. Just under 80% of the small grain acres still had cover. And 82% of the soybean acres harvested last fall weren't disturbed last fall.
That means many fields were likely covered enough to keep soil erosion to a minimum. Many may have met the 'T' level, or tolerable limit. It's the amount of soil erosion that still occurs when everything has been done that could be done to limit soil erosion. Many fields that are worked conventionally have very little cover left over winter.
Even in no-till fields with stalk residue left, soil erosion can occur. It's typically gullies forming in areas where water concentrates. That's why grass waterways and other soil conservation measures are often still ended even if the field is in no-till.
Related: How to do tillage the right way
An early end to fall with rain in part of Indiana may have contributed to the jump in numbers. However, soil conservation officials are confident that most farmers will continue leaving the field cultivator, disk and chisel plows in the barn this fall unless there is a good reason to get them out.
Soil compaction or the need to fill in a grass waterway may be the only reasons some people will get tillage tools out, especially in areas where fields are more rolling and soil erosion is a threat all year long.