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Tech Takes Tillage To The Next Level

With increasing conversations around the benefits and detriments of tillage, folks with University of Minnesota Extension took a day to highlight various tillage practices last month.
The Tillage and Technology Field Day, held at the University of Minnesota-Morris, brought together experts from across the Upper Midwest and Canada to talk with producers and demonstrate equipment. The day explored the full cycle of tillage considerations, from tillage’s influence on soil properties to new technologies like variable depth tillage to getting planters set up to deal with residue.
When planting in conservation tilled fields, seed placement is key. Therefore, having a planter that can make way through residue, ensuring good seed-to-soil contact, is a great help. Adam Bjerketvedt modifies planters to that end for Precision Planting.
“It’s trash management,” Bjerketvedt said. “No till and strip till want their trash managed differently than conventional till. You want stalks exposed so they can break down. There’s a lot of neat tools here that allow us to go into any soils we need.”
Residue can affect yields, according to research from Francisco Arriaga, of the University of Wisconsin, and Greg Bartley, of the University of Manitoba. Residue’s effects come through in things such as soil temperature, water infiltration and nutrients. Those interactions might be worth considering when planning ahead, Arriaga said.
“Maybe we need to start looking at tillage and rotation together,” Arriaga said.
Crops Extension Educator Jodi DeJong-Hughes talked tillage and soil properties with Aaron Daigh with North Dakota State University. With some of the best soils in the world in this region, holding on to as much of them as we can is important.
“The best way to hold back soil is residue,” DeJong-Hughes said.
Conservation tillage equipment has helped, especially with a growing number of options for producers to choose based on their soil, such as shanks or coulters for strip tillers.
Daigh is looking at how much residue is best to leave on a field. It has to do with how tick the residue is, he said.
Conservation tillage improves soil health. North Dakota State University’s Abby Wick walked producers through assessing soil health.
“Sometimes, soil health is the feel,” Wick said.
Aggregates tell soils’ story. Healthy soil should be comprised on 50 percent minerals, 25 percent air and 25 percent moisture. If soil is platey, it’s compacted, Wick said. Reduced disturbance and diversified rotation are the best way to improve soil health. She’s seen big changes after just one year in fields that get a change in tillage and rotation.
Dick Hanson, of Salford, and Andy Gates, of Gate Manufacturing, told producers about advancements in tillage equipment.
Gates showcased his company’s CD9048 w/DAL Control vertical tiller. He likes coulter discs for helping with residue and rocks. A new feature called Dynamic Adjust sets pitch angles. Eventually, he hopes there will be cameras on the fronts of tractors that can read residue levels and have the machinery behind respond accordingly.
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