Tillage Question Peanut Notes No. 172 2023

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I had a question about crop response to tillage. In a previous post, I shared data from two of our long term trials that have combinations of short and long rotations with respect to corn, cotton, and peanuts and tillage systems (Peanut Notes No. 38 2023). We also provide comments on concerns and benefits of reduced tillage for peanuts in 2023 Peanut Information. There is also a risk index that addresses the question of whether or not peanut yields will be lower in reduced tillage compared with conventional tillage. A table is also provided that shows trends in our tillage systems for peanuts for more than two decades.

We often see lower yields when we have less tillage on finer-textured soils compared with more aggressive tillage on finer-textured soils or almost any tillage system (reduced or conventional) on coarse-textured soils. One of our challenges is that most fields are not uniform when it comes to soil characteristics. We might be able to use reduced tillage with no negative impact on a high percentage of a field but can lose yield in finer-textured sections of fields with reduced tillage. In addition to comments in 2023 Peanut Information, I’ve provided a link to a short article that addresses field uniformity and our risk index for tillage.

Using Variation in Soil Characteristics within Fields Provides a Minor Contribution to Prediction of Risk to Peanut (Arachis hypogaea) Yield in Reduced Tillage Systems

Generally, peanut yields are seldom higher in reduced tillage compared with conventional tillage. When there is a difference, yield is almost always lower in reduced tillage compared with conventional tillage. We certainly don’t want to have lower yields with a tillage system, but there are major benefits to reduced tillage production in the short and long term (savings in time and expenses in many cases and long-term benefits to soil structure and soil conservation.)

Regardless of tillage system, we typically do not see a response to ripping or sub-soiling for peanuts compared to what we see for cotton and especially when compared with corn.

I think a good compromise is the stale seedbed approach. This would involve establishing beds in the fall and planting a cover crop (most likely wheat.) I would leave off the ripper shanks. Then, in spring close to planting, strip till with the ripper included. This is a good compromise between “serious” reduced tillage and intensive conventional tillage. This also allows you to shift some of the spring work load to the fall or winter when you might have more time. We have bedded directly into mowed corn or cotton stalks and had success. You may not need intensive disking and field cultivating in the fall prior to bedding. While we have had success with strip till in flat ground (with several county champions in 2022 using this approach), many fields need the compromise approach.