Database Research Summaries
2018 Maximizing Soil Warming and Health Under Different Tillage Practices in a Corn-Soybean Rotation

calendar_today Year of Research: 2018
update Posted On: 12/05/2019
group Aaron Daigh (Principal Investigator, North Dakota State University),Abbey Wick (Co-Investigator, North Dakota State University),Jodi DeJong-Hughes (Co-Investigator, University of Minnesota)
bookmark North Dakota Soybean Council

Research Focus

The focus of this project is to improve soybean (and corn) yields while simultaneously building soil health.


  • Monitor soil warming and moisture under four tillage treatments (chisel plow, vertical tillage, strip till w/ shank, and strip till w/ coulters) on clay and silty loam soils that are either subsurface drained or naturally drained in the Red River Valley.
  • Evaluate soil health parameters (biological activity, aggregation, organic matter, infiltration, and strength), emergence and yields on these same treatments.
  • Transfer information to producers in formats, including but not limited to, inclusion in field days, bus tours, tillage expos, winter programming, videos and fact sheets.



  1. At each location, the four tillage practices are demonstrated using full-sized equipment in plots of 40 feet wide by the full length of the field in a replicated design. Soils include silty clay, clay loam, loams, and sandy loam; representing >67 million acres in the region.
  2. During 2017, the chisel plow and strip-till berms had the driest and warmest soil conditions followed by between the strip-till berms and then the vertical till as the wettest and coolest soil conditions. Soil microbial communities appeared to be relatively stable over time during the year.
  3. No differences were observed in soybean stand counts or yields. However, tile drainage appeared to have substantially larger influence on soybean yields than tillage or soil salinity level. For instance, plot-to-plot variability was 3.9 bu/ac on average among tillage practices, regardless of the soil salinity levels or drainage management. The same variability was observed among soil salinity levels. However, crop yields were 7.5 bu/ac higher in tile-drained fields as compared to un-drained fields.


There is limited information on tillage options that maximize soil warming and yields while building soil health. This study is designed to answer these questions over the span of four years, while at the same time, serving as a “site” where other multi-disciplinary research and extension (for example, pathogens, weeds, pests) can be conducted.

For more information about this research project, please visit the National Soybean Checkoff Research Database.

Funded in part by the soybean checkoff.