Vertical tillage effects on crop production and pest management in Pennsylvania

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Within the last four decades, widespread transition to no-till corn (Zea mays L.) and soybean [Glycine max (L.) Merr.] production in Pennsylvania has improved soil conservation and soil quality but can result in residue and pest management challenges. To effectively manage residue in no-till cropping systems, some growers have adopted vertical tillage, a residue management practice characterized by cutting and incorporating crop residue within the top 5–10 cm of soil. Despite few studies documenting effects on crop production and soil conservation, vertical tillage has become widespread. Replicated on-farm trials were conducted over a 2-year period in 2021–2022 to improve grower and consultant decision-making regarding the role of vertical tillage relative to continuous no-till on southeast Pennsylvania farms located within the environmentally sensitive Chesapeake Bay Watershed. We assessed the effects of vertical tillage on corn residue cover, winter annual weed abundance, slug damage, and soybean performance in 40 paired strip trials comparing spring vertical tillage to no-till using three different vertical tillage tools used by farmer cooperators. Vertical tillage equipment type is a driver of variation in changes to surface residue cover. Baseline surface residue cover was similar among no-till strips, but a greater proportion (32%) of strips had mean surface residue cover levels below a 60% conservation program compliance threshold when a Kuhn-Krause Excelerator was used. Relative to no-till, vertical tillage resulted in a 50% reduction in winter annual weed cover, a 24% reduction in slug damage, and no significant differences in soybean stand establishment or grain yield.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)520-530
Number of pages11
JournalAgronomy Journal
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 1 2024

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Agronomy and Crop Science

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