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Tillage Choice Can Affect Crusting And Soybean Emergence

Tillage Choice Can Affect Crusting And Soybean Emergence
More tillage usually leaves soil more vulnerable to big rains.

One thing people who have converted to no-till or conservation tillage soybeans don't miss is the vulnerability of the soybean field to crusting and ensuing soybean emergence problems soon after planting. The finer the soil is worked the more likelihood that a big rain after planting can cause crusting, especially in wetter areas of the field.

Soils with lower organic matter are more subject to crusting. Also areas which have seen a lot of traffic might be a good candidate for crusting. If water stands even for a short period in low areas, the soil may be hard as it dries out. This makes germination tougher, and typically delays emergence.

Tillage Choice Can Affect Crusting And Soybean Emergence

Here's an example from this season. A farmer no-tilled some field, planted into a stale-seedbed in others, and conventionally tilled a couple of fields. All were planted in a three-day window with the same variety. After a big rain, there were no crusting or ponding issues in the no-till field or the field worked once last fall and then planted into this spring. That condition is referred to as a stale seedbed.

The only issue was in the conventionally worked field. Where soils were worked down and little residue was left on top, the same amount of rain that hit the other fields and didn't affect them caused soils to dry up harder here. The effect was the worst in small areas of the field where water sat for a few hours before entering the soil.

The soybeans are using the buddy system, and most will emerge, but they will be about 10 days behind the rest of the field. In this particular case, it was only a small area of the field where crusting was a problem, so replanting isn't necessary. However, it is a reminder that if you return to conventional tillage, you appear to be more vulnerable to heavy rains that could cause the soil to crust before the soybeans emerge.

TAGS: Soybeans
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