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Tillage Specialist: Leave Stalks Tall and Attached to Roots!

Tillage Specialist: Leave Stalks Tall and Attached to Roots!
Different view questions theory of machines that knock down stalks.

You can find reports on devices that stomp stalks behind combine rows and other devices that shred stalks right behind the combine head, even in Farm Progress Companies' reports of What's New at Farm Shows.

But Paul Jasa won't be buying any of those devices for his long-term tillage plots in Nebraska. The University of Nebraska Extension ag engineer believes firmly in letting stalks stand as tall as possible, and not breaking them loose from the roots that anchor them to the soil.

Let them stand: If Paul Jasa gets his way, he will let corn residue stand and not knock it down or till it at all before planting into it the next spring.

You might think part of the reason is so taller stalks catch snow and preserve moisture in drier parts of Nebraska, and you would be right. However, Jasa says that even here in the Eastern Corn Belt, he would make the same recommendation. He prefers to leave stalks standing and anchored to the soil. His comments are based on the assumption that you will no-till into the field in the spring.

First, you don't get stalks or soybean residue moving due to water movement, which creates clumps over winter, he notes. But most importantly, if stalks are standing, you set up a situation where the planter openers can slice through them and create a good seedbed. There are no root balls to contend with because the roots are still attached to the stalks and have not been broken loose to form root balls.

"I have plots that are continuous no-till, and that is different than no-tilling one year and doing tillage the next," he says. "But I still would rather plant into standing stalks. I let the snapping rows do the processing of residue and not a chopper or some sort of light tillage tool. "

His soil on the long-term continuous no-till plots actually warms up faster in the spring, he contends. Cooler no-till soils have been a complaint for years amongst would-be no-tillers. He credits much of it to even spread of chaff, and lack of a mat of residue covering the soil.

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