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rototilling vs old fashoned plowing?

Posted by tewitt1949 none (My Page) on
Sun, Sep 15, 13 at 19:25

I've had a garden for the last 20 years. The first 4-5 years I used a regular farm plow to work up the garden. Then I bought a rototiller and have used it ever since. But it seem like since switching to the tiller, although the plants always grow, it seems like the plants are not thriving like they should. I always blame it on weather, poor fertalizing, etc.
The rototiller which gets down about 4-6 iches and the plow that I use completely rolls the ground over to about 14 inches deep. Before switching to the tiller, for instance the tassels on my sweet corn was over 7 1/2 feet tall, had big ears and was great. Since switching to the tiller (and I may be wrong)the plants just don't seem to grow like they should.
I have noticed the ground below the till depth is hard and I'm thinking the roots can't penagrate down through the hardened dirt.
Am I way off on my thinking or is it possable the deeper ground has to be loosed up yearly?


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: rototilling vs old fashoned plowing?

Brace yourself for a dozen posts that say, "you shouldn't till anyway". But until then, I have 2 thoughts.

1) Soil tests? Any chance you have one from 15+ years ago and another w/in the last 2 or 3? If the soil is is more or less the same condition, then that rules out one big variable. If not, do you have a recent one to let you know how the nutrients are now? I got mine back a week or two ago, and was shocked at how much my phosphorus had risen in just 3 years. Just an example of how things can get out of whack without our knowing.

2) Compare them. Till one half the garden (or one half of the corn plot, or whatever), and plow the other half of the same crop's area. That way you're comparing corn grown in tilled soil vs. corn grown in plowed--not corn grown in tilled soil vs. beans grown in plowed. I'd love to know the results, as well as (if possible) the effects on different crops. Shallow-rooted vs deeper ones, etc. I've never had the space to grow corn, so I don't know how deep-rooted it is.

--JC


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RE: rototilling vs old fashoned plowing?

  • Posted by TXEB 9a (My Page) on
    Sun, Sep 15, 13 at 20:51

I believe JonCraig has nailed it - including the part about "don't till". Just be prepared.

Compaction can be a real issue. But often compaction is a reflection of other practices, including tilling. No till or low-toll is wonderful, so long as you make use of the organic residue left behind from harvesting whatever grew there, and provide for the addition of organic matter over time. Which brings up the issue of what have you been growing over those years, any cover crops, how have you fed things - soil or plant, any soil amendments used (manures, compost, mulches, etc.), and about a dozen other questions that others will raise.

Even if you don't have soil tests from the past for comparison, the proper starting point should be a thorough soil test. If you're noticing a change over time that reflects a trend, a good starting point is soil analysis, then consider other elements of soil characteristics, such as compaction.

There is one more effect that I run into in my reflections on gardening, and that is the older I get the better it was back when ... :-/

This post was edited by TXEB on Sun, Sep 15, 13 at 21:20


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RE: rototilling vs old fashoned plowing?

Unless you have exceptionally hard soil or weed issues you're trying to take care of with plowing you probably don't need to till your corn area, anyway. Corn does well under no-plow for many areas...especially if you don't need to til for weed pressure.

Hardpans by tilling does impede root production and corn needs deep/stable roots to get the most water it can as well as support itself. It seems you've already identified that you have some hardpans.

If the area is small enough you can manually break them up or you can chisel plow the hardpan area if you have the equipment for it.


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RE: rototilling vs old fashoned plowing?

Apearantly you live in farming country and probably know some farmers or your county ag agent is savy about comercial farming. Ask them. Many areas require deep plowing more properly known as busting the hardpan every 10 to 20 years. The soil is not flipped as you described but chiseled then worked same as ever. Three things come to mind where this practice helps. Moisture penitration below root zone that supports moisture during dry weather. Air penitration and root penitration. Some of the worst I've seen in Tx is where topsoil is like blow sand but when you dig less than 18" it is so hard you can not go farther with a shovel. I helped a friend plant grape vines in Odessa and we spent at least 45 minutes per hole in 5 minute sessions over the weekend pouring water in the hole to soak for an hour or two then digging for 5 minutes. In the fields where cotton is grown they pull the chisels with dozers eventhough the farmer owns huge tractors. Where I am in Northeast tx,I rarly see it chiseled any where other than silt bottom land. If your tractor is 40+hp,borrow a single point sub soiler or root plow.


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RE: rototilling vs old fashoned plowing?

I am amazed at 14 inch deep plowing...wow! I plowed one of my gardens every fall for 35 years...never deeper much than 9 inches. Now I had pretty good results with that moldboard plowing. It is good soil. Since then I have highly amended a 17 foot wide strip that is cross wise to the plowing. I also gave the tractor and plow away to simplify my life.
Now I rototill and sometimes use a potato fork to loosen or mix more deeply. I now get pretty good results this way too.
I have 2 more gardens that are highly amended in parallel strip beds. They are very loose and mellow and do not require plowing. One garden is newer and has never been moldboard plowed. All 3 are wonderful gardens and a joy to work.
Now back to the original poster. I would suggest either more organic amendments or a 10 inch plowing to break up any hard soles or such.


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RE: rototilling vs old fashoned plowing?

The first question that comes to mind is: why go 14 inches? 14 inches is such a lot of depth that I doubt anything without taproot (i.e. corn) will actually benefit from the tilling. It does not really matter whether to break up that part of soil or not because it is way too far for most crops root to reach. Most things happen in the top 5 to 10 inches of soil. The deeper you dig than that depth the easier you would make it for nutrient to leach down beyond the root zone.


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RE: rototilling vs old fashoned plowing?

Many common vegetable plantings develop taproots that extend beyond 2 foot depth. Sweet corn is typically 3-5 feet depending upon soil texture, irrigation, etc. Tomatoes are typically 2-3 feet, spinach 3-6 feet, okra ~4 feet.


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RE: rototilling vs old fashoned plowing?

Both types of tilling have advantages and disadvantages and both can create what is known as plow sole if repeated tilling at the same depth occurs. Some compare that to hardpan but they have different causes, although they can do the same thing.
Rototilling tends to introduce more air into the soil then does a moldboard plow, but it is easier to introduce many soil amendments with a rototiller then with the plow. How deep to till depends on what you growing, carrots, turnips, parsnips, and those other long root veggies need a loose soil deeper then would beets. Corn would probably benefit from deeper tilling then would cabbages.
However, how well plants grow depends more on soil nutrition than how deep the soil is tilled.
What is that soils pH?
What are the levels of the major nutrients?
How much organic matter is in that soil?
What kind of life is in that soil?
What does that soil smell like?
Annual tilling of a good healthy soil is not necessary.


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RE: rototilling vs old fashoned plowing?

Kimmsr,

That is a lot of good information. I have read pro and con about plowing and tilling. I am convinced that for me and my large gardens and my particular needs that rototilling is GREAT. I do like to use a potato fork to shake up the soil deeper and to mix things in to a deeper horizon level...9-10 inches.
I wish you could have seen the huge onions; the great broccoli, cauliflower, sweet corn, sweetpotatoes, tomatoes, peppers, lettuce, lima beans, sugarsnap peas, pumpkins, 11 foot meal corn, and the glads...one with 33 inches of blossom.

I rototill to mix in amendments, kill some weeds,and to prepare a nicer seed planting row. I don't rototill just to ...well because that is what cousin Louie does.

This post was edited by wayne_5 on Mon, Sep 16, 13 at 12:43


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RE: rototilling vs old fashoned plowing?

My preference out of the two would be to use a turning plow but not frequently, probably every other year would do if soil is balanced and weeds not wildly out of control.

If at some point I have a large enough plot to justify buying a tractor, then I would go with turning plow and harrow, using the latter much more frequently than the former. meanwhile I am pleased with the results using a rotary plow on a walk-behind.


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RE: rototilling vs old fashoned plowing?

I find this interesting. Our gardens have only a few inches of soft soil on the top, then you hit hard clay or hard subsoil. It stands to reason that if the soil is broken up to a deeper level, the roots can grow much better. I wish I had access to a plough, digging with a fork is a heck of a lot of work. Also, there is only a 5 minute window between the wet clay of winter and the dry soil of summer and there is so much to do in those 5 minutes!


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RE: rototilling vs old fashoned plowing?

Corn has fibrous roots but no tap root, and it will develop prop roots or extra roots that are formed above ground and eventually penetrate the soil. These help to anchor the heavy plant. Corns are usually being planted close together in a cluster because if planted too far apart they are easily blown down by breeze. To say they have tap-roots that reach 3-5 feet roots is just so misleading and irresponsible. Please google "root system of corn" and look at the images, or better yet plant some corns yourself .

The tilling practice is actually more suitable for commercial growers because imagine doing soil loosening, fertilizing and seeding all in separate process, that will cost so much more for them and that is exactly why they choose to till so they could incorporate all those different things that need to be done in a single one pass job to save money(labor ) and time. For home gardeners, tilling is acceptable when the area is too large for hand digging. Actually tilling took a lot of fun out of gardening because you lose the chance to get intimate with your soil.


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RE: rototilling vs old fashoned plowing?

  • Posted by TXEB 9a (My Page) on
    Mon, Sep 16, 13 at 20:16

Ceth - my use of "taproot" for corn is probably an erred use of the term, but not the depth. Sweet corn regularly develops roots 3-5 feet in depth, and field corn 5-8 feet in depth.


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RE: rototilling vs old fashoned plowing?

"that is exactly why they choose to till so they could incorporate all those different things that need to be done in a single one pass job"

I don't believe that is an accurate assessment of most farming operations, at least not what I know about. High-index salt fertilizers release very rapidly, so they are always applied a very short time before planting crops, and are often applied during the growth cycle, and even most organic fertilizers are quite soluble and so also are not applied much before planting. Tillage, OTOH, obviously occurs before - usually well before - planting and cultivation. The only kind of application that might usefully be made at the same time as a turning plow is some kind of rock powder application, such as lime, and indeed I believe that is the best way to build deep fertility.


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RE: rototilling vs old fashoned plowing?

ceth - In traditional farming deep tilling is employed primarily for two reasons, to reduce soil compaction and to incorporate soil amendments such as lime deeply. In commercial agriculture tilling for reduction of soil compaction and preparation of a seed bed is a distinct and separate step from those of planting and fertilizing. In agricultural systems that employ deep tilling for reduction of compaction, or adding amendments such as lime, that tillage is then usually followed by separate harrowing to prepare the seed bed, then another pass for planting that might include some of the needed fertilization, then post-plant side-dress fertilization and cultivation are subsequent separate steps. There is no typical combination of operations with tilling as you suggest. The field equipment is separate and distinct.

The home growers need for tillage should be no different from that of the commercial farmer - reduce soil compaction and/or deep incorporation of certain soil amendments.

One of the primary objectives of conservation tillage in commercial agriculture is to reduce the number of trips over the field to, in turn, reduce the potential for soil compaction that comes with the use of heavy machinery rolling over the soil. Others include the preservation of soil structure, better retention of soil organic matter, and reduced potential for soil erosion.


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RE: rototilling vs old fashoned plowing?

  • Posted by pt03 2b Southern Manitob (My Page) on
    Tue, Sep 17, 13 at 10:12

Up here, many use an airseeder with an anhydrous ammonia tank in tow for one pass, seed and fertilize. This is followed by a one pass harrowing/packing. This of course depends on the crop being seeded, many crops have distinct prep/seeding procedures. IOW, there is no one size fits all description.

I know of no conventional grain/oilseed producer around here that employs a deep tiller or plow. I have a three bottom plow, haven't used it in my entire time on the farm. I do use a deep tiller when incorporating the yard trimmings due to soil compaction by the refuse trucks but I am rather unique.

Lloyd.


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RE: rototilling vs old fashoned plowing?

Around here in the corn belt it is mostly corn and soybeans with a bit of winter wheat. Checks on yields show no real difference between 'no-till' and conventional tillage which may be a deep chisel plowing in fall with a harrowing perhaps just before planting. Sometimes a deep ripper is used especially on the ends which get a lot of turning around compaction.

Corn roots may go down deep in uncompacted loam, but like watermelons, most of the roots are in the top 12 inches.


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RE: rototilling vs old fashoned plowing?

  • Posted by TXEB 9a (My Page) on
    Tue, Sep 17, 13 at 13:21

For those who are interested in root development and depths of common garden/market vegetables, the classic time-honored treatise on the subject is:
Root Development of Vegetable Crops, John E. Weaver and William E. Bruner, McGraw-Hill, 1927.

The copyright protection has been dropped, it was released into the public domain, and it is readily available from multiple sources, such as the link below for a pdf (ignore the embedded links - they don't work), or this one for an online browser version.

Here is a link that might be useful: Root Development of Vegetable Crops PDF


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RE: rototilling vs old fashoned plowing?

Tex, That is a very good study but one caution: The test ground was prairie deep loam...your mileage may vary.


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RE: rototilling vs old fashoned plowing?

  • Posted by TXEB 9a (My Page) on
    Tue, Sep 17, 13 at 15:26

wayne - no doubt, your mileage WILL vary. And that's, in part, the issue.


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RE: rototilling vs old fashoned plowing?

no, tractor, no tiller .. what i do ?

the abswer is: DOUBLE DIGGING for the backyardners.


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RE: rototilling vs old fashoned plowing?

  • Posted by TXEB 9a (My Page) on
    Tue, Sep 17, 13 at 22:28

That's certainly one answer. Another is raised beds of "healthy soil" that never get stepped on (my preference for small scale). There are others (see the Back to Eden video, which relies on very high soil organic matter).

The point to be appreciated, which is what the OP raised, is that soil bulk density (e.g., compaction or lack of it) can have a very significant impact on how plants grow and produce.

kimmsr covered well the issue of plow pan or plow sole. For most of us homegrowers, we aren't running heavy equipment over our gardens so it generally is not much of an issue once we get things dug up, if we maintain "healthy soil". And that is a key to desirable soil bulk density, which is a the significant and valid point to which point kimm was pointing.

Minimizing soil compaction is not only a physical / mechanical issue, it is a soil chemistry and biology issue. Soil organic matter, and what comes with it, or the lack of enough of the precious stuff plays a very significant role in potential for compaction. For farmers in much of the U.S. with soils that are highly susceptible to compaction, a major step for those who wish to transition from conventional high-tillage farming to conservation tillage or "no-till" is to first build adequate amounts of soil organic matter. If that's lacking, then even with fewer trips across the field soil structure and the attendant yields will suffer. That has been a downfall of many who tried to jump into no-till farming without adequate soil preparation. Hence my earlier questions about practice in the OP's garden (what have you been growing, cover crops, fertilization, amendments).

For some really good background on the role of soil chemistry / biology on compaction , see the article linked below from The Ohio State University ( Go Bucks ... and take the Browns with you).

Here is a link that might be useful: The Biology of Soil Compaction


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RE: rototilling vs old fashoned plowing?

In general, a switch to no-till on commercial production lands causes an initial yield decrease which usually stabilizes back to normal and in some cases exceedes tilled yields after 3-10 years.

That said, even with a lower yield while switching over (on a commercial plot) the savings from less tractor runs through a field (wear/maintenance on equipment, fuel, labor, etc) usually cuts into the profit loss from less yield over these years. For most commercial farmers it's about profit, not yield. The biggest yield is striven for...but it's balanced with the cost of inputs to get an ideal yield which may or may not (usually may not) be the largest capable yield.

For all the flack GMO corn gets, it's a huge reason no-till has made a big comeback over the past 15 years in a lot of areas. There's no need to till weeds under or till herbicides in. It's built up a lot of organic matter in the soil that's been lacking via previous methods of growing in a lot of areas.


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RE: rototilling vs old fashoned plowing?

That is a good point that is probably often missed, 'no-till' method meaning repeated herbicide spraying in farming is not the same as 'no-till' gardening methods such as lasagna gardening or mulched raised beds.

For the original poster, try to incorporate something useful into the soil if/when you till like a cover crop, manure, compost, or other organic matter to improve the soil. Rototilling really mixes and completely breaks up the soil but may not go as deep as plowing.


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RE: rototilling vs old fashoned plowing?

I have a front end rototiller...by choice. I didn't want a tiller that was slow moving forward and pulverized the soil too finely. I have gotten tilth by what I have added to the soil. Once upon a time I disked the soil like an onion bed and rushed out to plant everything at once.

Now I have very nice soil and with my tiller I can go as fast or slow as I want. ...making a row at planting time. After that it is a matter of lightly tilling or hoeing weeds while they are small, and then mixing in any organic matter in the fall.


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RE: rototilling vs old fashoned plowing?

"For all the flack GMO corn gets, it's a huge reason no-till has made a big comeback over the past 15 years in a lot of areas. There's no need to till weeds under or till herbicides in. It's built up a lot of organic matter in the soil that's been lacking via previous methods of growing in a lot of areas."

Only time will tell whether this increase in SOM and bottom line for producers will be worth the possible long-term damaging effects of both the genetic contamination of most of the maize genetic diversity and the possible effects of very large amounts of glyphosate introduced to soil, water, animals, and people.


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RE: rototilling vs old fashoned plowing?

Genetic diversity loss is grossly overblown.

For instance...

One, almost every corn producer grows hybrids anyway...and they are tightly bred to be true to type with parents highly "clean" and protected. Two, we have an amazing amount of seed bank saved genetic diversity under close control and consistent re-breeding for freshness (as well as backups in case of re-breeding contamination).

This corn example follows pretty much every crop out there...GMO or not.

There is a wealth of genetic diversity that sits around, saved, and untapped. Sh2 corns were around for a very long time, but it was only the 1940s/1950s that breeding with them was thought to be something worth looking into. Though they made sweeter corn, the sunken kernels was not something considered desirable to the market. Through breeding with these long-ignored lines we're appreciating "super sweet" sweet corns over the past 60-70 years because of these long ignored genetics.


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RE: rototilling vs old fashoned plowing?

I'm in rural Pa. I am no expert in anything, but corn plant roots here are hardly even a foot deep. I take walks in the local corn fields and here at least corn roots are quite shallow. 12 inches seems deeper than I have seen here, unless then roots are thin as hair and dry up in fall.


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RE: rototilling vs old fashoned plowing?

What is often referred to as "no till" where corn is grown is not no till. Simply because the grower does not plow or disc the field before planting does not mean he did not till it because that field should be worked with a chisel plow, a plow that goes deep in the soil but does not disturb the surface much, before planting.
A good healthy soil will not need tilling.


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RE: rototilling vs old fashoned plowing?

I do not have complete faith in the status of seed-bank material (especially since total protection during grow-outs is probably impossible) given studies like this one indicating that vast areas near centers-of-origin are contaminated:

Here is a link that might be useful: thousands of years changed in a moment


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RE: rototilling vs old fashoned plowing?

  • Posted by TXEB 9a (My Page) on
    Thu, Sep 19, 13 at 11:52

With apologies to tewitt, I am reluctant to add this - seems the thread has been 'jacked from the OP ...

pnbrown - I hope you realize that the study cited in that 2002 report you linked was subsequently found to be an artifact of the method of analysis that had been employed. A larger later study in Oaxaca (2003-2005) found no evidence of transgene flow.

A pretty thorough examination of the impact of GE crops on farm sustainability was completed by the National Research Council of the National Academies in 2010. The report is extensive, but you might want to look through at least the summary (pages 1-17). The overall view is quite positive with some cautions for the future noted, as well as the need for additional research.


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RE: rototilling vs old fashoned plowing?

kimmsr, The no-till corn around here does not use a deep ripper. The slice to plant the seed and the cut to inject nitrogen are the cuts in the earth.


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RE: rototilling vs old fashoned plowing?

Much like wayne said, a lot of "no till" corn is actually "no till"...maybe what you're seeing is fertilizer injection and seeders.

The OM stays on the surface, almost all unincorporated.

Injection N, particularly, is a very efficient way to keep your N in the soil rather than have it volatilize and precipitate away...especially when applied in the colder weeks pre-planting.

If someone is chisel plowing they're still in the process of trying to correct physical issues brought on by tilling a field for many years. Many farmers use alternate row cropping so it's not uncommon to see those farmers chisel for 2-4 years after switching over. Even then, chisel plowing keeps a majority of the OM on top of the field.


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RE: rototilling vs old fashoned plowing?

Interesting, TX. I hope the more recent study is accurate. The appearance of transgenes in 2000 and absence by 2003 might be a result of the situation being publicized in mexico (via the earlier survey) and subsequent increase in vigilance by small growers there.


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RE: rototilling vs old fashoned plowing?

Thanks for all the thoughts. One other thing I've noticed in my garden is I plant the corn and when it gets to 2-3 tall and we get a thunder storm and it gets windy (not hurricane winds), quite often the corn will tip over. I go along and straighten it up by packing dirt around the plants stem. Even though I planted the seed about 3 inches deep it seems it was planted only about 1/2 inch deep. Is it possable the roots are trying to go down into the unplowed hard dirt and instead of going down its pushing the plant/seed up and out of the dirt?
After all the talk I am diffently going to try old fashion plowing next year. Just so see if it makes any differnce.


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RE: rototilling vs old fashoned plowing?

Planting deeper will not help but only result in less plants coming up. Despite all the talk here about no till,corn needs dirt brought to it before it reachs mature height. There was an important fact about corn that was lost among the brambles while chasing rabbits. Corn will make use of generous applications of N , so put plenty under yours. As I suggested at the begainning of this conversation,talk to your local ag agent and farmers for information applical to your area because one size doesn't fit all geograpical areas.


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RE: rototilling vs old fashoned plowing?

If you talk with your county agent, which I second, check to see if he has a soil penetrometer you can use. That will tell you very quickly if you have a hard pan layer at depth, how deep it is, and how far it extends. It's very simple to use, but they cost about $250. (S)He will also probably ask you about your soil (had it tested lately ?), and will probably be interested in how much organic matter is in your soil, which is the long-term solution to preventing the development of compacted layers. If you haven't done so in the past 3 years it's well worth getting your soil analyzed (basic or routine test) and spring for the OM test as well.


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RE: rototilling vs old fashoned plowing?

Why on earth would a farmer inject Nitrogen into the soil 18 inches deep? How would that farmer inject N into the soil unless that farmer is pulling something to hold that N source behind the chisel plow? Since the tractor pulling that chisel plow has no seed bin, and since planting corn seed 18 inches deep makes no sense whatsoever that is not what the farmer is doing either.
I have been to Field Days where "no till" practices were explained and demonstrated.


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RE: rototilling vs old fashoned plowing?

Back to a little closer to the OP, there is corn and then there is corn. Most home gardeners mean to speak of sweet corn, which is weak all the way round and has little tolerance to drought, weeds, and needs the most fertility. North american landraces, OTOH, tend to be highly tolerant and robust. Mine get from 10-12 feet tall even in average soil and do not easily blow down and I do not do any hilling.


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RE: rototilling vs old fashoned plowing?

kimm - I believe you misread or misunderstood the post to which you are reacting. Nobody suggested what you assert.

In MI, where I presume you received your information, the recommended practice is inject initial fertilizer at planting. The usual depth is 3-5 inches. Tilling is recommended only every 3-4 years and then for mixing of lime if needed, and fertilizer in fields that are in transition to no-till but haven't yet established adequate P & K fertility at depth. Of course if a field has a problem compaction issue, additional tilling on even no-till fields will be used.

From MSU:
No-till corn planting in Michigan generally involves planting seed in cold and wet soils, particularly this year. The residue cover on the no-till surface contributes to a delay in the spring soil warm up. Organic matter mineralization and initial root growth will be sluggish, limiting nutrient availability and uptake. Under these conditions, no-till corn will respond well to starter and pop-up fertilizers. On heavy surface residue, positioning the seed and fertilizer band at a precise depth and distance may be difficult, so right adjustments and tools are required. ...

Nutrient stratification is a consideration on no-till fields, where surface applied nutrients such as P and K build up in the surface layers and not in the entire root zone. For this reason, no-till is best suited on high fertility soils. Otherwise, soil fertility levels should be built-up before starting no-till. Alternatively, the fields should be plowed every three to four years to mix lime and fertilizer. No-till is not recommended on low fertility and strongly acid soils.

Where I lived in MI a lot of corn was grown, and no-till was well prefered. The biggest issue that the local farmers had was getting the drainage right so they could still get into those typically muddy, cold fields in spring without creating significant compaction issues. A lot of drain tile went into the ground while I was there.

This post was edited by TXEB on Fri, Sep 20, 13 at 9:45


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RE: rototilling vs old fashoned plowing?

" No-till is not recommended on low fertility and strongly acid soils."

That agrees pretty well with my experience. My soils are too light and have too low an exchange rate not to regularly incorporate fertility, whether in the form of amendments or biomass residue, or both.


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RE: rototilling vs old fashoned plowing?

"How would that farmer inject N into the soil unless that farmer is pulling something to hold that N source behind the chisel plow?"

This is a drag hose injector. It cuts the soil in a very small area and injects fertilizer in.

If you want to be extremely technical about it, there is a very minimal amount of OM moved along the cut line deeper into the soil, but for the most part the soil is slightly parted and falls back upon the cut area. The amount of OM actually incorporated into subsoils is extremely minimal.

As you can tell, almost all the OM residue is left on the surface doing this.


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RE: rototilling vs old fashoned plowing?

Can you imagine anything less interesting than driving that thing? Might as well watch machines in some factory...


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RE: rototilling vs old fashoned plowing?

GPS guided automated driving makes even more boring...or less tedious depending on how you feel about it.

Bigger field growers (100s-1000s acres) are buying into it rather hardcore. A few inches here and there of non-human-error over the course of 100s-1000s of acres actually turns into big savings after a few seasons. A lot are accurate to 1-3cm...plus it doesn't matter if it's day or night, foggy or clear, etc. when you run it.


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RE: rototilling vs old fashoned plowing?

even more boring. Seems like it would be only a small step to auto-pilot GPS-guided machinery and the human could be doing something else while the tractor goes across the field. Just a default to stop for any problem built in, obviously, and the human can have a mountain bike at hand to pedal out to the machine to see what the problem is....


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RE: rototilling vs old fashoned plowing?

Well, not quite pm. First you have got to make sure that you have no tile ditch cave ins; also no muddy areas; also no stumps or large rocks; also no tapered areas; also no gullies; also no grass waterways. ...beats a lot of jobs.


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RE: rototilling vs old fashoned plowing?

  • Posted by pt03 2b Southern Manitob (My Page) on
    Sat, Sep 21, 13 at 13:48

Many jobs have boring aspects to it. Farming is no different. Having said that, driving the equipment can offer a time to formulate plans and think without distraction. Some of my best ideas have come whilst dragging a cultivator around the field.

BTW, the guy in the picture is injecting manure into the soil.

Lloyd


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RE: rototilling vs old fashoned plowing?

Nothing like the smell of liquid manure in the morning.


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RE: rototilling vs old fashoned plowing?

Well, Lloyd, that's why I don't specialize in sidewall or roofing. That stuff is so monotonous to do day after day that those that do it all the time tend to be stoners.

Perhaps that's how guys get through driving the same machine and set up over a couple thousand acres....


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RE: rototilling vs old fashoned plowing?

there are times it's obvious that there are few people who farm who post in these forums.

In the course of my life, we went from using a mold board plow exclusively, to using a chisel plow exclusively, to using both. We never went the route of full-fledged no-till, for a variety of reasons, and I know people who did who have parked their no till drills and gone back to plowing.

and to read the postings above, it's obvious we know nothing. Or that there is so much data out there, you could conceivably support any half-cocked notion you desire.

I've sat down a few times to bang out a response. For the most part, my experience is so far from what people here want to hear, it's not worth the effort.


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RE: rototilling vs old fashoned plowing?

" there is so much data out there, you could conceivably support any half-cocked notion you desire."

That is certainly true, and true about any subject. The flip side is that there is also enough information available to form reasonably sensible notions.

Nothing is simple. One can work a lifetime in a given general occupation and still have large areas of ignorance regarding some aspects. Hence specialization, right?

FWIW, I am quite willing to hear about your experience.


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RE: rototilling vs old fashoned plowing?

I very much appreciate answers from farmers. What home gardeners are doing in a 30 by 50 foot garden, farmers are doing on dozens or thousands of acres. And, they have to consistently make it work for them or go broke. Farmers these days aren't going broke! They are still pioneers and we can learn so much from them. Especially the funny ones like Lloyd.


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RE: rototilling vs old fashoned plowing?

  • Posted by pt03 2b Southern Manitob (My Page) on
    Sun, Sep 22, 13 at 13:00

Lloyd is just a two-bit, grade twelve drop-out, part time, wannabe farmer who likes to play at it. He does not do it for a living but rather as a child-like fascination with the concept of growing food. He likes to put seed in the ground and marvels at the magic of how the plants can figure all that technical stuff out on their own without all that book knowledge and new-fangled theories. He'd like to grow a garden but never seems to find the time. He is in awe of those that can grow a huge garden and grow/preserve enough food to feed themselves. He loves the smell of fresh, damp soil and would buy that as an air freshener if anyone ever made one of those hangy things you put in your vehicle. Lloyd does tend to scoff at those that seem to think there is only one answer to any given problem/situation and realizes that he actually knows very little about how the rest of the world grows their food. In high school, Lloyd did spend more than a few afternoons in detention for "questioning authority" (amongst other things).

Lloyd


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RE: rototilling vs old fashoned plowing?

A couple of things about research/data that one needs to consider is audience and scale.

There are "best practices" for managing 10-100-1000 acres...and "best practices" for managing the 4-20 plants you have in your home garden.

Some advice/practices for the commercial market don't scale to savings (money or time) or yield increases worth bothering with on the home garden scale. You'll find very few home gardeners fertilizing with NO3 or NH4 at different times of plant growth for optimum yield of corn during plant-maturity stages in order to get an extra 2-5% of weight out of their final harvest. In the home garden it's not worth it...over 100s-1000s of acre that's real money on the line.

There's all kinds of "correct" for addressing a situation, but a lot of material out there should be approached with a "does this make sense for me?" viewpoint.

This post was edited by nc-crn on Sun, Sep 22, 13 at 17:36


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RE: rototilling vs old fashoned plowing?

Sorry to drag up an old topic, but it was interesting and it's a slow afternoon here...

In 1998, I bought 5 acres of former horse pasture. Very hard red clay compacted by horses. I bought an old Ford tractor with a mower attached to keep the grass in check. Bought a 5.75HP rear tine tiller to put in a garden. Spent two hours in March or April going back and forth trying to break through a 20 foot stretch. I scratched the grass off, but not much else. So I went looking for a PTO tiller for the tractor. Tractor Supply had a used one, 5 feet wide, $200. It worked well, but I still needed something to really break the ground. Bought a subsoiler. Beautiful. Subsoiled, tilled, planted. Since then, I've got a bigger tractor with low range so I could till better. Beautiful.

New place, new beds, tilled 6 inches deep, big rain came. Washed out a gully 4 feet wide, and 6 inches deep. At the bottom was a pattern where I could see the marks the tiller made. Hard pan. Very disappointing, but I understood what all the fuss was about at that moment.

I have basically 100x100 beds, and I have a 4x5 disc plow that I can use if I want to. But I find that it rides on top more than it digs down, so it sits. I also have a turn plow that I use for making raised rows to plant sweetpotatoes on, but I also use it to dig deeper than the tiller will. I bought a spring tip scarifier years ago that's nearly useless to me.

I saw on one of those AgPhD shows where they took a back hoe and dug along a row of corn just to illustrate how deep corn roots go. 10 feet deep on some of them. So corn gets way on down there.

One other point. I use an EarthWay planter to walk the rows and drop seed that makes sense to do that with. So I kind of have to have nice soil to do that in. Doesn't work so well with no-till or disc/plow scenario. I could see doing some no-till where I'd be dropping transplants like tomatoes or peppers or spot planting seeds 2 or 3 feet apart like with squash or okra. But not elsewhere.

Bottom line is that I till most of the time, but I will use a subsoiler or a turn plow once in a while before tilling to help break up the hard pan and to bring up more clay to combine with the top layer. I haul in copious amounts of horse manure all the time and incorporate it in the off season. And I collect several hundred bags of leaves in the fall most years. Kind of wet and colder earlier this year, so I haven't been out. So I'm constantly adding and replacing organic matter or looking for ways to do that. I've read about salts building up from too much manure, but my soil tests are always outstanding.

Next year, I should have a vacuum mounted on the back of a 19 foot box trailer that will allow me to collect more leaves than I've ever collected before. And I'm working on connecting a 2 horse trailer to a JD 870 with a belly mower so I can collect "grass" from the field to use as mulch and compost material. It just gets bush hogged and lays there otherwise. Should be a fun year. :-)

This post was edited by chrisb_sc_z7 on Fri, Dec 20, 13 at 14:57


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RE: rototilling vs old fashoned plowing?

we have monitors that help use utilize every square inch of 2300 acres of farm land, these monitors help us combine more efficiently and the gps is fantastic. Its hardly boring these days as we have satellite radios almost completely sound proof and great a/c not speak of being dust proof. If I have a break down I use my phone, take a pic and send it to the parts dept or use the face to face iphone option with a mechanic and show him what is actually broken. Everything now is more efficient faster bigger and needs a lot less man power, technology saves us hundreds of hours in time we used to waste waiting around because we can communicate instantly. theres no more sleeping in the cab of the truck or running back and forth into town because they bought the wrong part..
lol. Oh one more item...I bought 40 bred hefers sitting on my combine and watching the auction sale on my iphone 90 mile from the sale.

have a great Christmas.


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RE: rototilling vs old fashoned plowing?

I have prepared planting beds, in Michigan, Indiana, and Ohio, where the soils ranged from sand to clay simply by piling compost and shredded leaves where the planting beds would be. No tilling to remove the grass or other plant growth (that was covered with the compost, etc) or disturb the soil in the fall and in the spring the soil was quite workable with out any tilling needed.
This metho9d is not the best thing to do where Quack Grass grows, but neither is tilling that soil.


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RE: rototilling vs old fashoned plowing?

I have done that many times as well - smothering is a great system.


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RE: rototilling vs old fashoned plowing?

kimmsr

Ive learnt a lot from you over the years, Im just not patient enough, so I do till (heavy clay) and supliment with tons of organic matter (veg garden) and It works for me.


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RE: rototilling vs old fashoned plowing?

c6-zr1,

Yes, +1


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RE: rototilling vs old fashoned plowing?

Posted by nc-crn 7b (My Page) on Fri, Sep 20, 13 at 21:31
"GPS guided automated driving makes even more boring...or less tedious depending on how you feel about it.
Bigger field growers (100s-1000s acres) are buying into it rather hardcore. A few inches here and there of non-human-error over the course of 100s-1000s of acres actually turns into big savings after a few seasons. A lot are accurate to 1-3cm...plus it doesn't matter if it's day or night, foggy or clear, etc. when you run it."

I heard about that. I bet the farmers save a good amount of money on labor.


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RE: rototilling vs old fashoned plowing?

  • Posted by pt03 2b Southern Manitob (My Page) on
    Sat, Dec 28, 13 at 22:42

"I bet the farmers save a good amount of money on labor."

Labor?! Seriously? Do you have any idea about what you are talking about?

Lloyd


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