If you are curious about how to increase your yield, last week’s SWAC conference provided many learning opportunities. One session that I really enjoyed was Growing Deeper Roots presented by Tom Kilcer.

Looking for ways to bust the door wide open to higher yields?  Take a read below and see what Kilcer had to say. How you manage water and airspace is critical for high yields. Compaction causes pores to become smaller, which in turn holds water more tightly and limits the oxygen that roots need to grow. Proper soil conditions are a must when tilling. Tillage operations when the soil is even slightly too wet can cause compaction and destroy earthworm populations, which play a huge role in water and air movement deep into the soil.

Often, the first several inches of soil are friable and ideal for tillage, but deeper levels may be plastic and will smear and compact, causing pans. Beware – the soil may look good from the tractor seat! Tom has found success using deep zone tillage on some farms but like all management practices, there is no silver bullet. Deep zone tillage should only be done under dry soil conditions.  Deep zone tillage has maintained yields under especially wet or dry conditions. One of the reasons deep zone tillage works well is because it leaves a path between the zones where you can drive without re-compacting everything back to the way it was. Tom’s research has shown a great increase in feeder root hairs as well as deep plunging, roots which can lead to higher yields due to increases in access to water and nutrients.

The research also found that if you have deep compaction issues, chisel ploughing will not help your situation and can often cause side and forward compaction. Bottom line: it might be a good idea to add a shovel to your tillage kit and dig to make sure you are not creating the problem you are trying to solve.

Laura Johnston, CCA-ON, Maizex Seeds Yield Specialist, West Elgin County
Twitter: @lmjohnston8