Residue Management in Winter Wheat
Plenty of challenges with crop residue remaining from 2013. Strong yields have made for an abundance of it and the winter we had was not conducive to residue breakdown. Couple that with not having a window for fall tillage and we have some fields covered with a thick layer. These fields have been slow to dry and warm. And of course there are the ruts to mend. This is the ideal situation to use a vertical tillage tool. These tools are not all the same and it’s a year where having fleet of them would be very handy. Typically a disk style VT will be a better option for levelling ruts. These can be set more aggressive and will move soil laterally to some degree. The straight coulter or wavy coulter style VT are ideal for residue management and getting sizing and mixing in order to create a seed bed. These will leave more surface residue. You will likely need 2 passes to achieve a seed bed. Target your working depth around 3 inches just below the seed zone. Rolling baskets or Tines behind the implement are a critical part of the operation for leveling. There is an art to tillage and if you are not satisfied with your result take the time to change your settings-depth, angle, speed etc. Not all soil types and residue will require the same amount of tillage to prep a seed bed. Make adjustments as you go and check your level regularly. If you are smearing, it’s too wet. If you are making chunks of soil the size of your fist, it’s too wet. It helps for soil drying to make your first pass then give it 24-48 hours and follow with the second pass just prior to seeding.
With the slow start to seeding we are all in a rush and hurry mindset. But if you can find that hidden reserve of patience in making this tillage pass as optimum as possible it will pay dividends in yield at the end of the season.