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Competency Area 3: Tillage Systems

PO 11. Know the Northeast soil types best adapted to fall tillage. Know the advantages and disadvantages of fall tillage.

Fall tillage is best adapted to the heavy clay loam soils with minimum slope that are typically too wet to work in the spring. These soils work up reasonably well in the fall and are less susceptible to winter erosion because of their limited slope. In the spring they are usually quite friable and a one-pass secondary tillage operation usually results in a good seedbed.

The advantage to fall tillage is that the soil profile is usually drier in the fall, especially at the deeper depths, so any type of deep tillage can do a good job of shattering and not smearing the soil. Another advantage to working the soil in the fall is that it usually occurs when there is time before fall harvest (grain corn) or after fall harvest (corn silage) instead of during the spring when time is limited for primary tillage operations.

The disadvantage to fall tillage is that the soil is exposed from fall through winter so it is more susceptible to erosion, especially if heavy rains and flooded conditions occur. Only soils that are too wet to work in the spring and that have a minimum slope should be moldboard plowed in the fall, Deep tillage to break up pans and to loosen the soil at deeper depths can be performed on soils with moderate erosion potential because deep tillage usually results in a rough seedbed that is less prone to erosion.