8/12/21 Sugarbeet Report

Once a field is harvested, many producers immediately begin the tillage process to prepare their fields for next year’s planting. Dave Franzen, NDSU Extension soil specialist, joins the Sugar Beet Report to discuss fall tillage recommendations.

Speaker 1: Bruce Sundeen, NDSU Agriculture Communication and Host
Speaker 2: Dave Franzen, NDSU Professor and Soil Science Specialist

Bruce:
This is the Sugarbeet Report - bringing you the latest information from NDSU throughout the sugarbeet growing season.

After harvest, many producers go right to the tillage process in order to get their fields ready for next year’s planting. Fall tillage is the topic, and Dave Franzen, NDSU Extension Soil Scientist, is our guest.

Dave, what’s the latest on how to properly handle fall tillage?

Dave:
The history of tillage in the Red River Valley, of course, has been to turn it black as soon as the early crops get off and then when the later crops get off turn it black and then get ready for the next season. But lately in the past decade or two, we’ve been turning the soil gray. And in some places in the valley we turn it white. The emphasis should be on doing as little tillage as possible and still prepare the field for next year.

Do I really have to say this? After you live through last May and April when most of the valley was blowing somewhere to the east and deposited in God knows where - that mayb leaving it black might not be the best idea in the world? Think of ways you can mitigate that and save what little topsoil you have left.

Bruce:
What about compaction? How does that affect management?

Dave:
If there’s compaction, there may be left over compaction left over from the wet years. Think about ways you can get right below the compaction layer without lifting the soil up using a straight touch shank- something that’s going to crack the soil but not lift it and disturb it too horribly much. Leaving some residue is a good thing. We have heavy planters. If there’s a little bit more residue than normal, winter’s long, you can put residue managers on a planter to move whatever residue is out of the way so you don’t have to get any hairpinning in any of the seeding that’s done.

Bruce:
How is strip tilling catching on?

Dave:
Thankfully, the people that are starting to either get a strip till machine for their beets or row crops or they are experimenting. There’s some people around who have a strip tiller and can do some custom work. Please consider that. Also this winter, consider going to some soil health workshops in the northern valley and talk to growers that have been using some conservation practices for a long time successfully, and those that are just getting interested and those that are a year or two into it. Because every farm is a little bit different. There is no recipe. I can’t write a recipe for anybody to do their work.

Bruce:
Dave, how important is timing for the tillage?

Dave:
An important thing is to, when you get the small grains out, not to go immediately out and work it for two reasons; one is that soil sampling after that crop is much better if you as the sampler, to sample before you do any tillage at all. Otherwise you are going to get questionable results in those 0-6 inch depths just because of the cloudiness and looseness of the soil you’re not even going to get an even probe. The second thing is when we do get a rain, and someday we’re going to get a rain, we will get a rain in the northern valley here just lately. The volunteers are going to grow and you’re going to have free cover crop seed. And so let that grow a little bit. I know it’s using some water but usually the problem in the valley is too much water and not enough so let it use a little bit and then just enough tillage to cover it up and get ready for planting.

Bruce:
Thanks, Dave. Out guest today has been Dave Franzen, NDSU Extension Soil Science Specialist. This has been the Sugarbeet Report, bringing you the latest information from NDSU throughout the sugarbeet growing season.