If you wonder whether April showers will bring May flowers — and will get your crop off to a good start — consider adjusting your tillage regimen. Less tillage with the right tools can do more than preserve moisture.
Drought monitor maps show most areas are in good shape moisture-wise. Yet some regions — including parts of the Upper Midwest and Great Plains — can’t seem to catch a significant rain.
In those more arid areas, moisture is the single-most limiting factor in crop yields. In dry years, the amount of moisture held in the soil is crucial to final yield, according to North Dakota State University Extension. The greatest moisture loss usually occurs during the spring’s first trip across each field. Additional trips result in more extensive drying in the tillage zone. Iowa State University researchers peg that loss at 0.25 inch of plant-available water per tillage pass. The chart shows how different tillage operations contribute to moisture loss.
Moisture Loss With Tillage Over Four Days
|Tillage Implement||Inches of Moisture Loss|
If you’re concerned about dry conditions this spring, adjust your tillage strategy now to conserve moisture. Your Case IH dealer can help you fine-tune existing tillage equipment to minimize moisture loss without sacrificing proper seed bed preparation. Adjustments may include:
- Changing tillage points, shovels or sweeps
- Properly setting depth and aggressiveness
- Adding or changing harrows or seed bed conditioners to help manage crop residue
If a new implement better meets your needs, your dealer can guide you through the full line of Case IH tillage equipment, including primary and secondary options and final seed bed prep tools. Properly outfitted to your unique field conditions, the Case IH Tiger-Mate® 200 field cultivator may be able to ready your fields for planting in a single pass. Our Advanced Leveling Systems and Advanced Conditioning Systems help you customize the Tiger-Mate 200 for your soil types and crop residue cover.
The benefits of a moisture-preserving tillage strategy extend beyond squeezing raindrops. Maintaining crop residue cover provides additional moisture savings and erosion protection. And don’t forget about the reduced wear and tear as well as fuel savings from fewer trips and easier-pulling implements, compared with traditional deep tillage.
A proactive, preventive approach to your fields this spring can help ensure the moisture is there to get your crop off to a good start. Good conservation now will help soils hold available moisture to tide over emerging plants until rains return.