Soybean School: Wrestling residue in no-till systems

What’s the best way to manage corn residue to mitigate soybean yield loss in a no-till system?

That’s a question University of Wisconsin Madison soybean specialist Shawn Conley hears more and more from growers as both corn yield and the biomass produced by more prolific hybrids continues to grow.

On this episode of the RealAgriculture Soybean School, Conley shares results from a Wisconsin trial designed to assess different methods of corn residue management in no-till soybeans. He says a second year of research will help provide more conclusive insights, but 2022 results indicate that chopping corn residue in the fall or spring prior to planting produces better yields than straight no-till. The research also indicated that soybean yields take another jump when nitrogen (30 lbs in this trial) is applied in the spring.

Source: Mark Kendall, University of Wisconsin, Madison. Wisconsin Soybean Association.

Looking at the data, Conley says his first takeaway is the fact that growers have options — they don’t have to turn to the plow. “If farmers are challenged with their heavy residue, and they think they’re having a yield decrease, they don’t have to go out and get that iron out and turn that soil over.”

Conley is also looking closely at the role added nitrogen can play in helping soybeans overcome the impact residue can have on yield. He says growers will have to do the math based on nitrogen prices. He doesn’t know what nitrogen will cost in 2023, but applying 30 pounds of N at 50 cents a pound will make sense for many farmers.

“I know most of us don’t like doing that. But again, if we can overcome some yield plateau, and if we can keep the steel out of the field, I think that’s a good option that maybe farmers can consider and try it on their own farms next year,” says Conley.

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