Reading soil and roots drives tillage strategy

What’s going on below ground?

That’s a question farmers often ask when it comes to tillage and the impact different tillage strategies and implements have on soil and crop roots.

In this 2021 Ontario Diagnostic Days video report, we catch up with Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA) soil management specialist Sebastien Belliard, and P T Sullivan Agro agronomist Paul Sullivan, as they share tips on how to assess the impact tillage can have on soil and crop roots.

In the video, we find Belliard and Sullivan in a soil pit as they evaluate the root system of a corn crop that has been planted into a field that was disc ripped in the fall and then vertically tilled before planting. What kind of soil structure remains after these two tillage passes? Does the deep tillage help corn roots dive vertically, penetrate deeply into the soil profile and access nutrients and moisture needed for a high-yielding crop?

Overall, in this field, Belliard and Sullivan are skeptical on the value of the disc ripper but they agree that residue management is required for the crop to reach its potential. In this poorly drained soil, spring vertical tillage plays a key role in seedbed preparation for improved planter performance, better emergence and better plant stands.


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