After a challenging year with difficult field conditions, one question remains on every producer’s mind: How do I adjust to increase emergence and yield in 2020?
We spoke with Dr. Alison Bryan, Case IH Research Agronomist, to get an expert outlook on spring field conditions and the best soil management techniques to ensure a smooth seedbed.
How are the field conditions from last year affecting our fields this Spring?
Last year wet conditions recked havoc on field operations. Some issues from 2019, such as field compaction from the short planting window, could lead to more problems in 2020. Additionally, we had 20 million unplanted row crop acres reported across the United States last year. When we don’t have a crop growing there, we don’t have roots in the ground — so we don’t have a relationship between the roots and the fungi working together to improve plant to soil properties. All of this can lead to conditions that can significantly effect yield.
Why should producers be paying close attention to their seedbed right now?
Consistent, uniform emergence is a vital step to producing a high yield. When producers don’t have an ideal seedbed with a level surface and subsurface floor — especially when it’s cold and wet — the seeds can come up late. A seedling that comes up one to three days later than it’s neighbor can actually be a weed later on. You don’t get your full yield potential out of those seeds that emerge late.
What kind of insights were you able to gain from your 2019 research plots?
First, when we planted into corn residue, what we found was not very surprising and aligned with prior research. If you’re a little more aggressive with residue management and bringing crop residue in direct contact with the soil and the microbes in that soil, it has a better chance to decompose sooner and release the nutrients that are immobilized. We compared more aggressive tillage methods to a competitor’s less aggressive true vertical tillage tool. The more aggressive tillage tool — in this case, our True-Tandem™ 335 Barracuda — actually enhanced our final grain yield and resulted in a 4-bushel advantage.
We also examined corn planted into soybean stubble, which has a different composition than corn residue. We learned that if we followed up in the spring with the Tiger-Mate™ 255 Field Cultivator, we created a better seedbed for improved seed-to-soil contact. We had the highest yield overall when we were conditioning the soil in the fall with the Ecolo-Tiger® 875 disk ripper and then following that in the spring with the Tiger-Mate 255 Field Cultivator tillage.
What are some strategies to achieve ideal seedbed conditions?
Based on our research, pairing the Ecolo-Tiger 875 disk ripper for primary tillage with the Tiger-Mate 255 Field Cultivator in the spring set up the most agronomically correct planting conditions. This winning soil management system also helps promote soil moisture and temperature consistency that could affect the uniformity of seed germination and setting the field cultivator to a shallower depth can help lead to appropriate water absorption by the seed. All of this leads to higher yield potential.
The newest member of our tillage family, the Case IH Speed-Tiller high-speed disk is also ideal if you’re looking for a dual-season tillage solution in the high-speed disk category. In our testing, it created a smoother subsurface finish than the competitors we assessed. It also created more clods of ideal size, those that were less than 6 inches in diameter, compared to the other high-speed disk options we tested. Clod sizing is critical to a level seedbed in the spring and minimizing the larger clod sizes is important for an ideal field finish.
It takes several steps and patience to achieve ideal seedbed conditions, but you can make large gains in early emergence if you find the right soil management system for your operation.
Visit your local Case IH dealer or CaseIH.com to learn more.
Note: Field tests conducted by Case IH agronomists evaluated residue coverage, residue sizing, levelness, clod sizing and seedbed floor. Conditions in your area may differ