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Soil Health Demonstration
Plot

Highway 57 Plot showcasing Corn, Soybeans, and Winter Wheat by comparing convention tillage to no-till with cover crops.

Bringing you local data behind soil health in-field trials!

Check out our Live Weather Data 
at The Plot!

This live stream weather data tracks historical and current air temperature, total and hourly rainfall, soil surface subsurface temperature, soil subsurface moisture. 

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Description

This 35 acre plot is split into 6 farmed sections of 5 acres each and is bordered by clover buffer strips. See Map 1 below for a detailed layout.

 

We rotate Corn Grain, Soybeans and Winter Wheat.  One plot in each crop is No-Tilled with the use of cover crops when applicable in rotation, and the other plot is conventionally farmed. The following year A1 crop moves to B1, A2 crop moves to B2, and so on.

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Since our first year of research in 2019, the plot has endured tough weather, soil loss, wildlife damage, as well as some human errors, just like farmers do.

We continue to research new practices, seed mixes, and technologies to demonstrate their soil health benefits and profitability.

Map 1: #1 fields are always conventional tillage and #2 fields are always no-tillage.

Crop Rotation Information & Data in 2023

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A1

Conventional Till Corn Grain

 

This plot was planted on May 25th and harvested on November 22nd.

 

Produced 170.20 bushels/ac

$101.75 net profit/ac

Photo taken on 8/1/2023.

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A2

No-till Corn Grain w/ Cover Crops

 

This plot was planted on May 25th, interseeded with CFF Mix#1 on June 29th, planted with wheat on November 22nd, and harvested on November 23rd.

 

Produced 113.64 bushels/ac

-$147.79 net profit/ac

Photo taken on 8/1/2023.

B1

Conventional Till Winter Wheat

This plot was planted on October 15th, 2022 and harvested on July 24th.

Produced 83.34 bushels/ac

-$22.40 net profit/ac

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Photo taken on 7/24/2023.

B2

No-till Winter Wheat w/ Cover Crops

This plot was planted on October 15th, 2022 and harvested on July 24th. It was then seeded with peas, oats and CFF Mix #1 at 10lbs/ac on August 2nd to add nitrogen to the soil for 2024 corn.

Produced 82.55 bushels/ac

-$82.58 net profit/ac

No photo

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C1

Conventional Till Soybeans

This plot was planted on May 26th and harvested on November 7th.

Produced 63.77 bushels/ac

$239.01 net profit/ac

Photo taken on 8/1/2023.

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C2

No-till Soybeans w/ Cover Crop

This plot was planted on May 31st and harvested on November 7th.

Produced 41.47 bushels/ac

-$36.65 net profit/ac

Photo taken on 8/1/2023.

Research Completed

Corn Stalk Nitrate Tests-

Conventional Corn had optimal rates of nitrates at 920.05ppm, whereas No-Till Corn had low rates of nitrates at 312.48ppm. 

 

Soil Microbe Health-

This was completed to look at the bacteria, fungi, protozoa and nematodes in the soil for each plot. All 6 samples were very similar; there were lots of particles and minerals, but not a lot of life. The recommendation to increase soil life is to add compost, manure or integrating animals. The soil samples were taken before manure was applied so may repeat test next time after manure has been applied to all plots.

Summary

This year proved to be a challenge due to the higher than average precipitation in Spring, followed by a record setting drought throughout Summer, and again wetter-than-normal Fall. These extremes required us to make adjustments to typical planting dates for both conventional and no-till.

Unfortunately, all no-till crops took a hit on, not only the number of bushels to the acre, but also the net profit per acre.

Soybeans: Due to the drought, no-till soybeans ended up having to be planted later because the planter could not get into the dry ground. This delay may have caused a decrease in growing days and therefore a decrease in yield. 

 

Corn: The decrease in yield for no-till corn could be due to the low rate of nitrate made available to the corn late in the season. This could be due to a number of factors, but could include lots of early moisture impacting the growth of roots deep into the soil or potentially the seed bed seed-to-soil contact due to wetter soil conditions during planting.

Wheat: Both wheat yields were above average this year and only less than 1 bushel/ac difference. 

Previous Years' Data

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