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OMAFRA: Improving corn and soybean yields through crop rotation and tillage

July 11, 2022
By OMAFRA Field Crop News

Gone are the days of grandpa getting the tractor and three-furrow plow out to work the whole farm each fall after harvest. For decades now, producers have been developing and adapting new technologies and practices to optimize land use, while continuing to care for it. Thirty-one years of data evaluated by the University of Guelph demonstrates the various effects of changing tillage practices and crop rotations in Ontario field crop production.

It seems as though our seasons are becoming more and more variable each year, with bigger temperature swings and dramatic changes in precipitation. With more time between rain events, crops need to be efficient in water conservation and usage.

A 2015 research report, titled “Increasing Crop Diversity Mitigates Weather Variations and Improves Yield Stability, demonstrates that more diverse crop rotations beyond corn and soybeans is a key factor in yield increases. Reducing and adjusting tillage is also shown to have a significant effect on yield. As part of Bill Deen’s research team at the University of Guelph, Amelie Gaudin and colleagues studied thirty-one years of weather data from the University of Guelph’s Elora Research Station. Both crop rotations and tillage data were evaluated for corn yield advantages, corn and soybean yield stability and any other potential benefits.

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Their findings showed moving from a two-crop (corn-soybean rotation) to a three-crop rotation (adding wheat to corn-soybean rotation) increased the following average soybean yields by 13 per cent. The five-year average for Ontario soybeans is 49 bushels per acre (bu/ac). The more crops in a rotation, and the more times the complex rotation is repeated, the better the long-term effects. |READ MORE

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