Here is the best way to optimize a no-till system, Jasa says:

  • Uniform planting depth is key. While some producers like a 1- to 1.5-in. planting depth, I like 2.5 to 3 in. for a better root system. The chart shows a 9-bu. yield bump from those extra 2 in. planting depth. “We’ve experimented with several planting depths in corn and beans; I see no reason to go deeper than 3 in., for corn,” he says.
  • “Each seed should grow in the same amount of residue,” Jasa says. “Many producers hate residue, thinking it’s a non-starter on cold and wet soils. Keep the residue on the surface; cooler, wetter soil is your best friend in the heat of July and August.”
  • Use an early preplant herbicide to stay ahead of weeds and reduce competition for nutrients and light.
  • The first step in your no-till system begins at harvest, when you set things up right for planting, Jasa says.
  • Harvest so that it distributes residue for planting. With platform heads, harvest on the downwind side of field for best residue distribution. A chaff spreader is a must with a platform head.
  • If your corn head is doing its job right, the combine doesn’t have to spread much residue. “When people have trouble with their planter, I ask what kind of combine head they use,” Jasa says.
  • “I like the way tapered snapping rolls or knife-to-knife snapping rolls process the residue, sending very little residue through the combine,” Jasa says.
  • You want uniform soil temperatures and moisture, and you don’t want a residue windrow after harvest. Your goal is uniform emergence –much more important than uniform spacing.
  • “I like taller corn stalks to trap residue; I don’t recommend chopping your stalks,” Jasa says.
  • Let your planter handle the residue. Use disk openers to cut the residue when placing seeds and nutrients. “We plant our corn-on-corn next to last year’s row rather than in the wheel tracks,” he says.
  • When you plant, make sure you have enough down pressure on the row units. The big central seed hoppers on today’s planters don’t have their weight uniformly distributed along the entire toolbar; you may have to add weight at the ends of the planter bars. generally lack enough down pressure; you may have to add weight at the ends of the planter bars.
  • Properly close the seed V. In hard soils this may require extra closing force, but cast-iron angle-closing wheels may be too aggressive in wet soils. I like to see the planter tail-down, not nose-down, for best seed V closing. Spiked or fingered closing wheels may be needed to crumble the soil around the seed for better closing and to reduce the chances of the seed V opening back up.