Questions about the timing of tillage and the difference between fall and spring tillage are being asked frequently. As the growing season comes to a conclusion and harvest is under way, this is a good time to start thinking about other fall operations such as tillage. Even though tillage may be needed in certain situations and field conditions, well-managed field and proper crop rotation generally may not call for tillage. Before we get into the differences between fall and spring tillage, we would like to stress a few facts that need to be considered in deciding whether or not to till.


There are two main considerations for making a tillage decision – soil conditions and management.


1. Soil conditions include: soil drainage, top-soil depth, soil slope, organic matter and soil texture. These factors can have significant effect on how successful the tillage system (no-till or conventional tillage system) is and what kind of effect tillage can have on soil quality, productivity and water quality.


2. The second consideration is management, which include sets of management decisions that are equally important: residue management, crop rotation, equipment availability and efficiency (proper setting of planter for different tillage systems, calibration of combine to ensure uniform residue distribution, etc.), tile drain for managing excess soil moisture, fertilizer program and soil testing, crop hybrids that are suitable to that area of the state, insect and disease control program and a whole set of other management decisions that will determine the success level of crop production.


These two considerations are critical to achieving the intended results of any tillage system.