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Durham Region Soil & Crop Improvement Association 2004 Major Grant Summary

Prepared By: Steve Carruthers CCA-ON , Amara Agronomics
December 2004

PURPOSE OF TRIALS
To investigate the benefits and best uses of the new secondary tillage tools that provide vertical tillage using notill style coulters mounted on a frame similar to a cultivator.
The commercial units on the market presently are the:
SALFORD  RTS (residue tillage specialist)
GREAT PLAINS – Turbo Till unit

STUDY BACKGROUND  
Hub International had a SALFORD RTS unit available for Durham Soil & Crop members to demonstrate and experiment with under various cropping systems varying from notill to final conventional tillage passes.
President Rick with Salford unit

The four key situations most people were dealing with were:
1. Using the RTS unit to open up very wet soil conditions we experienced this spring due to excessive rains.
2. Using the RTS for secondary tillage programs with high corn residue situations where it was difficult to cultivate without plugging.
3. Planting corn on corn where no fall tillage was done.
4. Using as light tillage pass before notilling soybeans

OBSERVATIONS & COMMENTS FROM PARTICIPANTS

1. USING THE COULTER UNIT FOR OPENING UP WET SOILS
Theory behind the vertical tillage from the coulters is you are slicing vertically through the soil creating a lifting and shattering effect of the soil profile.
This system doesn’t create a horizontal smeared layer we create with cultivator sweeps when cultivating under wet conditions. This horizontal layer of denser soil is harder for roots to penetrate.
For these wet conditions the machine worked very well allowing a tillage pass under wetter conditions than you would normally want to cultivate. A pass with the RTS unit followed by 6 – 24 hours of drying time before a second pass with a conventional cultivator provided a very good seed bed to plant corn.

2. USING COULTER UNIT FOR HIGH RESIDUE SITUATIONS
These units excel in high residue conditions. No problems going directly into standing corn stubble as the first tillage pass.
The machine also worked excellent where corn stalks had been soil saved or off-set disced the previous fall. With high yields & tougher Bt corn residues spring cultivation sometimes is difficult without plugging using conventional cultivators.

3. CORN ON CORN WITH NO OTHER TILLAGE
For this program people are using the Coulter machines once on the corn stalks in the fall, followed by one pass with the Coulter unit in the spring. Corn is then planted between the still visible previous years corn rows with corn planter equipped with trash whippers.
Youngfield Farms, Nestleton ON has been using this system for two years with their GREAT PLAINS TURBO TILL unit. They have found as good as or better yields with corn after corn using this system compared to their previous program of fall soil saving followed with a spring cultivation.
This system has created better machine efficiency (more acres/hour, less fuel consumption) as well as better soil conservation with less erosion compared to the Soil Saver program.

4. TILLAGE PASS BEFORE NOTILL SOYBEANS
Producers have been experimenting to see if a pass with the Coulter units would improve yields in a notill system. Results have varied in this situation and further trials need to be done. In this area the trials that were done @ Alsar Farms, Claremont & Cedardale Farms, Nestleton no yield advantage was seen.
Both trials were conducted on well drained, good rotation & well managed soils.
In western Ontario there was some significant yield improvements seen, particularly on wetter heavier soil types.

TRIAL RESULTS

ALSAR FARMS, Claremont

2004 Crop: Soybeans notilled into standing corn stalks with a JD 750 Drill
Plot: Salford RTS unit was used single pass before drilling beans. Two plots were done, 1 with the RTS set shallow , the other with the RTS set deep.
PLOT # 1 Salford RTS set shallow

RTS Tillage Strip - shallow 54.5 Bushels / acre
Notill Strip 54.0 Bushels / acre

PLOT # 2 Salford RTS set deep

RTS Tillage Strip - deep 52.0 Bushels / acre
Notill Strip 52.5 Bushels / acre

Conclusion: On this systematically drained good structured soil there was no advantage to the tillage pass.

YOUNFIELD FARMS, Nestleton

Pioneer 38G17 Corn planted May 12, 2004
Plots planted in the same field with different crop the previous year

PLOT # 1, 10 acres

Previous Crop Soybeans
Tillage 1 spring cultivation
Yield 147.4 Bushels / acre
Moisture 27.2 %

PLOT # 2, 10 acres

Previous Crop Corn
Tillage 1 pass in fall with GP Turbo Till1 pass in spring with GP Turbo Till
Yield 152.2 Bushels / acre
Moisture 28.1 %

Conclusions: Normally we would expect a yield advantage for the plot having corn following soybeans.

This plot demonstrates that corn yields for the corn after corn using the Turbo Till unit did not suffer any yield lost compared to the more conventional tillage & rotation used on the corn following soybean plot.

2003 TILLAGE TRIAL, MONSANTO CENTRE of EXCELLENCE

Neil Hannah’s, Port Hope 20.6
Entry
Type
BrandHybrid#
rows
Row
Length
(ft)
Harvest
Weight
(lbs)
Harvest
Lodge
%
Harvest
Moist
%
Corn @15.5%
Bushels/Acre
Yield
Tillage Trials
Spring Strip Till
DEKALBDKC39-4623565 5620.08.019.7127.9
No-Till Only DEKALBDKC39-46185654300.03.7 22.5120.7
SALFORD RTS DEKALBDKC39-4685651950.015.3 20.2/td>126.8
Spring Aerway DEKALBDKC39-46 165653900.020.6126.1
Aerway + Strip Till DEKALBDKC39-4665651690.0 35.720.8

SUMMARY

These new Coulter type tillage tools appear to have a very useful place in variety of tillage programs. Further trials are warranted for 2005.
These tools will provide producers with new options for their cropping program.
There is two reasons these tools will not replace the cultivator on most farms:

1. WEED CONTROL These units don’t shear off weed roots like cultivator sweeps. Winter annuals, dandelions and even emerge annual weeds will survive these tillage passes and will need to be removed with additional cultivation or herbicide applications.

2. SOIL LEVELLING
With the heavy spring tine harrows and the rolling baskets these machine leave an ideally smooth seed bed if it was already level before the tillage pass.

If dealing with deeper impressions on the soil surface such as Soil Saver ridges and valleys, disc ridges or dead furrows the units don’t move enough soil in a horizontal motion to level uneven soil surfaces.

The long term economic success of these units will be if producers can replace traditional primary tillage such as the Soil Saver and the Off-Set Disc  with a fall tillage pass followed with a spring tillage pass with these new Coulter type units.


Durham Region Soil & Crop Assoc. 2004