Corn headers are changing the way Ontario grower’s farm. Specifically, the newer headers are chopping corn stalks more. In some cases there are stalk choppers attached to the headers. The result is a mat of corn stover that keeps the soil wet and cold in the spring. This has resulted in no-till soybeans yielding less especially in a cooler year like 2009.
Growers are also finding that today’s corn stalks are hard on tires. The higher lignin bred into corn hybrids to keep corn standing creates a corn stalk that can be razor sharp. These corn stalks can really cut tractor tires and drill press wheels. One way for growers to reduce this tire damage is by working the corn stalks down.
Growers have found with these new headers that leave less of the stalk standing, if they work the land before they plant soys they get higher yield. This is not all bad since there is no point “in saving the soil and losing the farm.” If growers can make a higher return by doing some tillage, then that is what will have to happen. If a once over pass increases the bottom line this is what will be done. You have to make sure that in your case the extra tillage does pay and not just give a higher yield.
Another positive about some tillage on these corn stalks is that it will help lessen the extent of Fusarium, especially in wheat. Wheat that is no-tilled into soybeans that were no-tilled into corn stalks has a higher probability of getting Fusarium than wheat planted on a field where the corn stalks were covered up.
Another point to keep in mind: if you or your custom combine person has a stalk chopper it does not mean you have to run it all the time. Stalk choppers are expensive to run and repair. They also use significant horsepower to run. If you like no-tilling soybeans and have a custom combiner harvesting your corn maybe you should talk about how he leaves the stalks. Or if you have land that is prone to erosion and generally does better if no-tilled than worked, turn the stalk chopper off. For best no-till soy yields you want as much stalk standing as possible. BF