Your soil is a factory fueled by residue. A no-till system uses residue to your advantage, says Paul Jasa, Extension engineer, University of Nebraska-Lincoln and a 29-year continuous no-till veteran.

“Once you get the no-till biological system going, it digests crop residue and feeds your crop,” he says.

Important mechanisms in a no-till system are the nearly invisible mycorrhiza fungi, bacteria and all the other soil biological life surrounding plant roots that help convert residue into nutrients.

Jasa’s no-till rainfed corn in eastern Nebraska typically yields over 200 bu. That’s because he systematizes his no-till, where each seed has a uniform amount of residue, nutrients and moisture.

 “Uniformity and a systems approach are your friends,” he says. “Growers don’t think enough about a consistent environment for each seed.

“Once your soil structure is built, rainfall and snow melt soak in, compared to the way they pond or run off on a tilled field,” he says.

Think of residue as the insulation your plants need to reduce evaporation. Jasa recommends at least 80% residue cover on the soil surface and urges you to look at your corn plant for clues on how uniform your system is:

  • Compare the uniformity of stalk internode distances and stalk diameters.
  • Your corn ears shouldn’t fill completely to the tip; that’s an indication you’ve left resources in the field.