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Full -season no-till beans require management
NEWARK, Del. Delaware idea is relatively new, though the to attaion full-season no-till yields
growers eager to reduce tillage bulk of the state’s double-cropped comparable to those under con
requirements without sacrificing soybeans have long been no-tilled, ventional tillage requires skillful
yields are taking a closer look at Double-cropped yield expectations management. For this reason,
full-season no-till soybeans. The are generally lower, however, and Uni— - ' i
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agronomist Frank Webb a' 1 *ses
farmers to experiment on a few
acres first, before adopting the
system on larger acreage.
Two factors are critical when
growing full-season no-till
soybeans, Webb says good close
stands, and effective weed control.
He has spent the past five years
developing a system which works
well on Delmarva, and he offers a
number of helpful suggestions
regarding seedbed preparation,
fertility and liming, varietal
selection, seeding rates and
spacing, and weed control.
“In many instances,” he says,
“last year’s crop residue will be
this year’s seedbed for no-tillage
soybeans. As in no-till com
production, cover crops play an
important role in successful no
tillage soybean programs. This
cover can come from the previous
crop, or from an established living
The mulch from small
grain/double-crop soybean residue
is desirable for several reasons,
the agronomist says. It’s easy to
plant into and is present on many
Delaware farms, so there’s no
extra cost to establish it. This
residue will help conserve soil
moisture and provide reasonable
weed control. However, the ground
must be level, with no equipment
ruts, in order to do a good job of
Living cover crops can range
from any of the winter grains
(wheat, rye or barley) to legumes
like Austrian winter peas, hairy
vetch and crimson clover. Don’t
expect a fertility benefit from the
legumes, however. “Three years’
data from the University of
Delaware’s Georgetown Sub
station suggest that the nitrogen
fixing legumes offer little ad
vantage for soybeans other than
their mulch effect,” Webb notes.
Other crop residues can be used,
but those mentioned above provide
the most mulch, he says. With
cornstalks or soybean stubble,
good vegetative bumdown is
essential, along with effective
residual weed control since these
covers usually provide poor mulch,
and weed pressure will be heavier.
Use soil test
As for fertilizer and lime,
phosphorus and potassium needs
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Lancaster Farming, Saturday, May 19,1984—D17
appear to be the same as for
conventional soybeans. The
specialist urges growers to have
their soil analyzed in order to
spend their fertilizer dollars
“Broadcasting P<jOij and KjjO on
the soil surface is fme for a no
tillage full-season soybean
program,” he says. “Planter
applications are also satisfactory,
but generally not suited to narrow
row soybeans (7- to 20-inch rows)
because most drills or narrow row
planters aren’t equipped with
Maintain a good soil pH. In most
cases a pH of 6.0 is optimum for
sandy soils, while heavier soils
require a range of 6.5.
In Webb’s experience, the best
varieties for conventional planting
are also best for a full-season no
tillage program. Other than that,
he recommends selecting varieties
that branch and cover the ground
“Narrow rows are part of the
success of full-season no-till,” the
agronomist says. “I recommend
using row spacings 20 inches or
closer. Drill rows of 6 to 8 inches
are excellent, but be sure you can
justify the cost of a no-till drill for
your farming operation, because
yields at this spacing aren’t much
better than from 15-inch rows,
which many growers are already
equipped to plant.”
Plant populations should be the
same as for conventional tillage.
Base them on row spacing and, to
some degree, on variety.
“Weed control is one of the most
important parts of the entire no
tillage program,” he specialist
says. “At the start, you must
achieve effective bumdown of all
existing grass and broadleaf
weeds. Follow this with effective
season-long control.” Webb has
developed several alternative
weed control programs growers
can use, depending on field con
dition and their preference for
certain herbicide combinations.
These programs are outlined in
the newly revised extension fact
sheet, “Full-Season No-tillage
Soybean Production.” Copies are
available from county extension
offices in Newark (451-2506),
Dover (736-1448) and Georgetown