Effects of Single Tillage Operation

Have you wondered about how a single tillage operation would affect your yields?  In many cases, folks may be wondering about tillage for controlling the challenging kochia and Palmer amaranth. 

 In 2012, research was started by K-State on the Experiment Stations in Garden City and Tribune.  The purpose was to determine the effect of a single tillage operation every 3 years on grain yields in a wheat-sorghum-fallow (WSF) rotation. Long story short – the grain yields of wheat and grain sorghum were not affected by a single tillage operation every 3 years in a WSF rotation. However, grain yield varied greatly by year from 2014 to 2016.

 The three tillage treatments in this study were (1) a single tillage in May or June during fallow or (2) a single tillage after wheat harvest or (3) a complete no-tillage system. A sweep plow was used for the tillage operations.

 Grain yield varied greatly by year from 2014 to 2016. Wheat yields ranged across years from mid-20s to 80 bu/a at Tribune and about 10 (hail damage) to near 60 bu/a at Garden City. Grain sorghum yields ranged from less than 60 to greater than 130 bu/a, depending upon year and location.

 At Tribune, wheat yields were 75 to 80 bu/a in 2016, compared with 23 to 28 bu/a in 2014 and 2015 (Table 1). There were no significant yield differences among tillage treatments in any year or across years. Grain sorghum yields were similar in 2015 and 2016 at 118 to 133 bu/a, respectively, which was considerably greater than 2014 with yields of 77 to 84 bu/a (Table 2). Similar to wheat, there were no significant yield differences among tillage treatments in any year or across years.

 At Garden City, wheat yields were greater in 2016 than earlier years. Wheat yields in 2014 were severely reduced by hail. There were no significant yield differences among tillage treatments in any year or averaged across years. Favorable growing conditions caused grain sorghum yields in 2016 to be about twice the yields of 2014 and 2015. Similar to wheat, there were no significant yield differences among tillage treatments in any year or averaged across years.

 In no year or location were grain yields significantly affected by a single tillage operation. This indicates that if a single tillage operation is needed to control troublesome weeds, grain yields will not be significantly affected.

 Now, if you have read other research, you may have seen that reduced tillage systems produced lower yields than a complete no-till system in a WSF rotation. However, in this study, a single tillage operation in a 3-yr WSF rotation did not affect wheat or sorghum yields from 2014-2016 at Garden City or Tribune.

 If you have any questions, the newsletter article about this study, with charts and yields are posted on my website – the K-State Sunflower District Agronomy at www.sunflower.ksu.edu/agronomy.  You can keep up with what I am finding in the field on my facebook page at K-State Sunflower.District Agronomy or on twitter @CropsWithJeanne.


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