Tillage and No-Till Systems

panorama of tillage systems

Tillage Systems Descriptions

There are a variety of tillage systems available for crop production.  While tillage operations are performed for various reasons, producers must evaluate the need for each and every field operation conducted in order to improve profitability.  In addition, the effects of the tillage operations on the soil system and the environment must be considered. More information is available on the following tillage systems:

Soil & Water Management: Tillage Concepts

Tillage of the soil has been used to prepare a seedbed, kill weeds, incorporate nutrients, and manage crop residues. The goal of the tillage system has been to provide a proper environment for seed germination and root growth for crop production.

Throughout the years, tillage systems have changed as new technologies have become available and the costs of fuel and labor increased. With adoption of reduced tillage systems, many producers are realizing the negative effects of tillage as they see the soil and water conservation benefits of leaving the residue on the soil surface. No-till crop production systems leave the most residue and often prove to be the most profitable methods of crop production.

tillage photo

Tillage breaks up soil structure and destroys residue.

With no-till, the improved soil structure and moisture conserving residue cover makes more water available for crop production by improving infiltration and decreasing evaporation from the soil surface.

  • The tilled plot on the left has little soil structure, resulting in problems with soil crusting and crop emergence.
  • The no-till plot on the right has a protective layer of residue which absorbs raindrop impact and reduces evaporation from the soil surface.
  • The tillage has beat down the soil elevation on the left, compared to the no-till surface on the right, reducing the pore spaces in the soil profile.

Related Articles

No-Till on the Plains field day poster

No-Till on the Plains to Host 25th Anniversary Celebration and Field Day

July 28, 2021
The final field day for No-Till on the Plains will be hosted at Rogers Memorial Farm in Lincoln, where several university classes conduct research on cover crops, fertilizer application rates and more. 

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Does Grazing Cover Crops Negatively Impact Soil and Crop Yields?

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Grazing cover crops can be a potential option to re-integrate crops with livestock production and reverse the adverse effects of separating crops and livestock production, despite soil compaction concerns. 

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Long-Term Study Suggests Management Adaptations for Weather Extremes

July 16, 2019
From droughts to flooding, extreme hydrological phenomena are the costliest hazards in rainfed agriculture. A recent journal article explores how a long-term tillage study in northeast Nebraska can offer insights on successfully adapting to future climate changes by adjusting specific management practices.

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snow between residue rows
Figure 1. Standing residue captures snow across this no-till field, reducing blowing snow and erosion. (Photos by Paul Jasa)

Leave the Stubble to Protect the Soil

November 16, 2018
No-till November, a USDA NRCS campaign, encourages farmers to park their tillage implements this fall, in favor of keeping crop residue on the soil surface. Using no-till as a system reduces erosion, runoff, and soil moisture evaporation.

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Southeast Nebraska Corn Growers Field Day Aug. 29

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Compare performance of corn hybrids from 11 companies in the field, and hear a presentation on cover crops with no-till planting equipment and the effects of weed control.

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