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Competency Area 3: Tillage Systems

PO 15. Describe the ideal seedbed conditions for corn, alfalfa, perennial grasses, small grains, and soybeans.


ideal seedbed conditions


Alfalfa and perennial grasses
Seed size of most perennial forage species is small, making seedbed preparation critical for successful forage plantings. An ideal seedbed should be smooth, firm and free of clods. This requires a moldboard or chisel plow, followed by secondary tillage with a disc or field cultivator. Overworking heavy soils is undesirable and will result in breakdown of soil structure and crusting. Small amounts of crop residue on the surface can help prevent crusting and reduce soil erosion, but large amounts of crop residue will leave the soil too loose. A rough rule-of-thumb is that a footprint in the seedbed should not be more than an inch deep.

Corn, soybeans, and wheat
Seed size is large and most modern corn planters and grain drills can handle a considerable amount of surface residue. Consequently, seedbed conditions are less important and all three crops can be successfully planted into almost any type of field condition. Soil crusting and soil moisture availability are critical factors in the success of soybean establishment so no-till conditions generally reduce soil crusting problems and improve soil moisture conditions. Soil temperature is of major importance to early-planted corn so high residue conditions can reduce stand establishment in early-planted corn and delay early-season development. Wheat stand establishment is almost always successful so field conditions are not a major factor.