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A common issue encountered with the practice of no tilling farming is the remaining corn residue from the previous harvest. This leftover corn can cause serious problems for inexperienced farmers trying to implement the no tilling technique.

Our 10 tips will give you some fantastic ways to combat this common problem and get your fields up and ready for the next season without tilling.

1.    Combine your harvest correctly

It is important that you ensure that the combine harvester is distributing residue evenly in its wake. You can do this by maintaining a consistent speed over the fields, providing the crop was planted correctly, there should then be a fairly even distribution of corn residue after the harvest. Ideally you want to be making use of a straw chopper.

2.    Keep as much of the residue grounded

Anchoring the residue means that you won’t have to concern yourself with loose residue causing problems. When it is locked into the ground as it was the soil will keep it firmly in place while any machinery passes over it. This removes any aggravation the residue may cause with the farm equipment.

3.    Add weight to your row units on your planters

Modern planters have no issues whatsoever planting down into a soil with a heavy residue. Adding the weights means that as you are planting the row units don’t skirt along and over the residue. This simple solution could see you through the planting season with little need for the remaining tips on the list; if you’re lucky that is.

4.    Use your planter as a plough

By running the planters 2inches above the surface they will push the stalks away to the side and mean you only have to be concerned about stalks nearer the base from that point on.

5.    Ensure you’re planting your new crop deep enough

Setting your planter at a depth of 2.5 to 3 inches will give you a realistic planting depth of around 2 inches on a residue littered soil. This is why it is crucially important to add the additional weight to the planting rows as you will need to maintain a consistent level across your field. Make sure you’re planting slowly at around a speed of 5mph as this will ensure that the stumps aren’t causing a carousel effect with the planting rows rising and falling. Slowly planting gives a smoother and more consistent planting mechanism and causes less margin for error. Uniformly planting your field will have the desired results when it comes to yield.

6.    You will require a pop-up fertiliser

This fertiliser will need to be added into the furrow, even if your soil has good phosphorous levels. This is a temperature dilemma caused by the substantial residue, meaning your soil is likely cooler than it would ordinarily be if it was bare and exposed to the sun light. This coolness and lack of direct sunlight can lead to nutrient deficiency in the growing crops, the pop-up fertiliser will actively tackle this problem and give the crop the best possible start its growth cycle.

7.    Some no till farms use additional equipment to get the best from their planters

Some use Keeton Seed Firmers to make as sure as possible that all of the seeds are in the bottom of the furrow. If you don’t have a Keeton Seed Firmer another popular alternative among no till farmers is the Schaffert Rebounder. Again, the mechanism of action is the same and it is a designed to get the majority if not all of the seeds to the base of the furrow. Additionally, both of these bits of tech can be used with the pop-up fertiliser in the furrow. The Keeton has the benefit of being able to firm (as its name suggests) the seed into the planting seed-vee. On the other hand, the Rebounder is far more effective on wet clay type soils as it is not as prone to clog up during the planting process. A last point on these two bits of kit is that they actually pay for themselves extremely quickly, this is because they create great uniformity when planting and increase yield substantially as a result. In experiments between no till farmers in the US, they found conclusively that not using the equipment hurt yields compared to those precision agriculturalists that used the tech.

8.    Be aware of your moisture levels and have effective drainage

Having stalks in the ground is likely to dry out the soil as these will harbour water. This can be good and bad, but the general rule of thumb is that if a field has drainage issues then the stalks alleviate some of that problem. If you have effective drainage on your fields then the opposite can be true, and the stalks cause an issue of retaining vital water that the new seedlings will need to take root effectively. Having a drip irrigation system or general irrigation system should make your growing season a bountiful one. The key is that as a farmer, you’re familiar with your soil and its moisture levels, always maintaining it at an optimum for growing even with a heavy corn residue.

9.    Be wary of corn to corn growing seasons

Some no till farmers will plant the same crop year after year with little to no issue whatsoever. However; the vast majority of no till farmers find this very detrimental to their fields and their crop output. Crop rotation has long been the champion of no till farming, and you should try to plant a different crop for each season. Doing this will allow your soil to recover from the heavy damage a corn crop can cause and will improve corn yields when you come to plant them next.

10. Last but not least is be patient

No till farming is almost an art form with a lot of soil management being done to avoid tilling. The moisture levels and nutrient levels all need to be carefully monitored and with precision you should be able to get record harvests by using this method. It can be painstaking, and you shouldn’t enter into a no till environment lightly or with the idea that you’re saving yourself the job of tilling, in actuality you’re creating yourself a lot more work. The results of which do pay off.

No till farming is becoming a farming practice that is more readily used, in the US tech firms have recognised this and are beginning to work on farming tech that can be used to aid no till farmers. We have written lots of articles on tilling and no tilling practices, so be sure to check out the blog for lots more information on the subject, including the benefits and drawbacks of no till farming. If you’re a no till farmer and have spotted something we have missed, let us know in the comments below and help out your fellow precision agriculturalists.


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