By Shannon VanRaess

While strip-till has long been shown to have ecological benefits, the Manitoba Co-Operator report from a recent field day at the Ian N. Morrison Research Farm suggests there are also economic ones for producers to consider.

“We have basically made a case study where we compare one pass, versus two passes,” said Patrick Walther, speaking to a group of farmers during the Manitoba Pulse and Soybean Growers annual SMART day in Carman last week. He noted conventional systems generally involve two passes with the disc, whereas strip-tillage uses a single pass.

“So fewer passes will save a little bit,” he said.

The University of Manitoba graduate student has been studying the effects of corn residue management in soybean production for the last year and a half, but said producers should also look at the value of their time when making tillage decisions.

“With strip-till you can save on time and a little bit of fuel as well,” Walther said, adding two passes with a disc burns about 5.1 liters of fuel per acre whereas one pass with strip-till uses only two liters per acre. Those using vertical tillage will consume a little bit more fuel than discing, but will spend less time behind the wheel.

When it comes to soil temperature, strip-till had the highest daytime temperatures and the lowest nighttime temperatures — at least until it was rolled. Walther believes that one reason for larger fluctuations in strip-till is that corn residue is pushed out of the zone of tillage, while a fluffy soil berm full of air pockets is formed.

“But there is still a lot more research to be done on this,” he said, adding the program is also looking for farmers to partner with as they plan next year’s test plots.

He also noted that tillage is only one small factor in the larger economic and agronomic matrix.

“My key point is that tillage decisions have to be made in a broader perspective including thoughts about soil erosion, fuel consumption, time requirements and machinery costs,” he said. But he added that strip-tillage continues to yield interesting information and possibilities.

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