In the pursuit of cost cutting, peanut farmers can benefit from leaving the plow parked as long as it doesn't cost them yield, says the North Carolina State University Extension peanut agronomist. The decision should be made on a field-by-field basis.
“Tillage is one of those things where producers need to look at their own operation, individual fields,” says David Jordan, North Carolina State University Extension peanut agronomist.
As margins have become tighter in the Virginia-Carolina region, more peanut farmers are looking toward some form of reduced tillage.
Currently about 15 percent of the peanuts in North Carolina are planted to strip-till. For those peanut farmers already using the practice, planting time means looking at the weed spectrum and selecting a burn-down material.
For farmers thinking about the practice, it takes plenty of thought.
“It's hard to make a general recommendation for tillage,” Jordan says. “Folks who've had success with reduced-tillage in peanuts have been the ones who experiment with it on a small scale until they get the confidence needed to make the switch.”
In addition to reducing trips across the field and saving fuel costs, Jordan cites agronomic benefits of building the soil's organic matter. “The cost-benefits of reduced-tillage tend to trade out with herbicide costs.” The cost savings depend on how much tillage was done before the switch to reduced-till was made, Jordan says.
“Either way, you need to plan ahead,” Jordan says. “With peanuts, you need to plan ahead on those fields.”
For Virginia-type peanuts, he recommends establishing a bed in the fall, planting a small grain cover crop and then strip-tilling the fields in the spring.
From a disease standpoint, the benefits of strip-tillage have been documented to help control Tomato Spotted Wilt Virus (TSWV). It is included in the recently released TSWV Risk Advisory for the V-C. The jury is still out on strip-till's control of Cylindracladium black rot (CBR). “Some people think strip-tillage increases CBR, while others think it increases,” Jordan says.
“Strip-till has increased over the past decade,” Jordan says. Strip-till acreage may go up this year in North Carolina.