Assessing No-tillage Soybean Producing Practices in Iowa in Collaboration with the Iowa Soybean Association

Palle Pedersen, Faculty, Agronomy


There are two ways to improve soybean grower’s bottom line either by increasing yields or decreasing production costs. Yield is of greatest interest because much of the production cost is fixed (land and equipment) and cannot be easily changed. Soybean production costs on the other hand have continued to rise due to improved technologies. Based on this situation a large project was initiated in 2007 to identify how we can cut our production costs without losing profitability. No-tillage has been used since ancient times and is defined as planting a crop on unprepared soil. The general purpose of tillage is to control weeds and create a favorable seedbed. Tillage not only exposes and loosens the soil, making it subject to erosion, but it also exposes the soil’s organic matter to oxidation. The introduction of new postemergent herbicide systems and improved tillage and planting equipment made no-tillage systems more feasible. Conservation tillage systems such as no-tillage production, in general, offer advantages over conventional systems in conserving soil and water, sustaining soil productivity, and reducing labor and energy requirements. Growing concern over environmental problems such as erosion of sediment and runoff of nutrients and pesticides coupled with increasing input costs such as machinery, labor, and fuel make no-tillage production an attractive practice. Despite the potential benefits, adoption of no-tillage practices has been slow in Iowa. Total soybean acres in Iowa in 2009 were 9.9 million with only about 30% being planted using no-tillage practices. The growers will therefore be able to cut their production costs without losing productivity. On average, a farmer spends $12 to $18 per acre in tillage expenses.


The objective of the educational effort was to provide awareness of no-tillage soybean production systems.


A major educational effort was implemented by ISU Extension through the soybean extension and research program in the Department of Agronomy to increase the awareness of Iowa farmers and agribusiness personnel of the issues related to no-tillage soybean production systems and how it can help growers to increase their profitability. During this time, I had several hundreds of phone calls, radio interviews, interviews with reporters from newspapers or farm magazines, and oral presentations on no-tillage soybean production practices.


As a result of extensive information deliveries from the soybean extension and research program at ISU, many soybean farmers went to meetings and evaluated information from our research across the state. The economic impact is astounding. Based on just 2 years of data our results were so consistent that a new recommendation for tillage practices was proposed to the growers in December 2008 that will save the Iowa farmer approximately 84 to 123 million dollars each year.


100  Corn and Soybean Production and Protection

Page last updated: August 5, 2009
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