A variety of tillage systems can be used to establish the corn crop successfully. Each system has advantages and disadvantages that should be considered for individual situations. Conventional tillage (plow plus disk and/or harrow), minimum tillage (chisel plow plus disk, disk plus disk), and no-till are three basic tillage systems used in Pennsylvania. See Section 1, “Soil Management and Tillage,” for more details. Increasingly, Pennsylvania farmers are using no-till methods for growing corn. Below are ten key points associated with successful no-till production.
- Select a hybrid with a high degree of disease resistance. Use Bt hybrids to ensure against pest infestations particular to your area of production. Pay attention to hybrids with aggressive emergence scores and cold germination percentages.
- Increase seeding rates by 10 percent plus germination loss to ensure adequate stands.
- Use commercially applied seed treatments preferably containing a fungicide and insecticide delivered directly on the seed.
- Modify planter to ensure proper cutting coulters, closing wheels, and starter systems are utilized.
- Use narrow-depth-gauge wheels, row cleaners, and seed firmers to avoid issues with depth and to clear a small path to alleviate slug issues.
- Use a starter fertilizer to ensure aggressive growth at germination to alleviate slug issues.
- Utilize cover crops to avoid compaction issues, increase organic matter, smother weeds, and, with legumes, produce addition N.
- Soil test—be sure all nutrients are balanced, particularly pH. Check pH yearly at 2-inch depth.
- Manage residue starting from the combine to spread the residue evenly across the field so the planter depth can be maintained at a set depth of planting to ensure even emergence.
- Start clean—use a burndown product and be sure planter can plant into cover crop at the height of burndown.